A new report has revealed statistics charting the staggering rise in sales of statins and notes that the use of these cholesterol-lowerers increased 156% between 2000 and 2005.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services, has released data which shows that spending on statins climbed from $7.7 billion to $19.7 billion, and the number of people purchasing the drugs nearly doubled when comparing 2000 and 2005, rising from 15.8 million to 29.7 million.

The AHRQ report also notes that the number of outpatient prescriptions for statins rose from about 90 million in 2000 to nearly 174 million in 2005. Each individual spent $484 a year on average on the cholesterol lowering treatments in 2000 and this rose to $661 by 2005.

The study has no comment to make about the use of statins over the last two-and-a-half years but the meteoric rise, at least in terms of revenues, seems to have tailed off. The world’s biggest-selling drug Lipitor (atorvastatin) turned in a 7% drop in sales to $3.14 billion for the first quarter, as it battles to compete with the influx in the US market of generic versions of Merck & Co’s Zocor (simvastatin).

Elsewhere, however, the demand for statins shows no sign of abating. Earlier this month, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommended that people who display clinical evidence of cardiovascular disease should be offered the drugs.