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Background: Gender differences in dyslipidemia are widely documented, but the contributors to these differences are not well understood. This study examines whether differences in quality of care, intensity of lipid-lowering medication regimen, and medication adherence can explain this disparity.

Methods: Secondary analysis of medical records data and questionnaires collected from adult patients with type 2 diabetes (n = 1,369) from seven outpatient clinics affiliated with an academic medical center as part of the Reducing Racial Disparities in Diabetes: Coached Care (R2D2C2) study. Primary outcome was low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

Findings: Women had higher LDL cholesterol levels than men (mean [SD], 101.2 [35.2] vs. 92.3 [33.0] mg/dL; p < .001), but were no less likely to receive recommended processes of diabetes care, to attain targets for glycemic control and blood pressure, or to be on intensive medication regimens. More women than men reported medication nonadherence related to cost (32.7% vs. 24.2%; p = .040) and related to side effects (47.2% vs. 36.8%; p = .024). For all patients, regimen intensity (p < .05) and nonadherence related to side effects (p < .01) were each associated with higher LDL cholesterol levels. The addition of a new lipid-lowering agent was associated with subsequent nonadherence related to side effects for women (p < .001), but not for men (p = .45; test for interaction p = .048).

Conclusions: Despite comparable quality of diabetes care and regimen intensity for lipid management, women with diabetes experienced poorer lipid control than men. Medication nonadherence seemed to be a major contributor to dyslipidemia, particularly for women because of side effects associated with intensifying the lipid-lowering regimen.