About 12M More People Eligible for Statins Under New Guidelines
As many as 56 million U.S. residents -- or nearly 50% of people ages 40 to 75 -- would become eligible to take heart disease-fighting statins under new guidelines that were issued last year, according to an analysis published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, the AP/U-T San Diego reports.
About 43 million people in this age group would have been eligible for statin treatment under previous guidelines.
Background on Updated Guidelines
The guidelines, which were issued by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology in November 2013, focus on risk factors rather than cholesterol levels. Specifically, they recommend using risk factors, such as smoking and obesity, to identify patients who should receive statins and patients who should simply make lifestyle changes (Marchione, AP/U-T San Diego, 3/19).
Details, Findings of Analysis
For the analysis, Michael Pencina -- a biostatistician at the Duke University Clinical Research Institute -- and colleagues looked at data from 3,773 participants between ages 40 and 75 who provided detailed medical information in their responses to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys. The data are considered to be representative of the broader population.
The researchers compared suggestions for statin use under the new guidelines with previous guidelines, and then extrapolated their findings to the U.S. population of 115 million adults between the ages of 40 and 75 (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 3/19).
The analysis found that under the new guidelines, and with the use of an accompanying online risk assessment tool:
- As many as 87% of men age 60 or older who are not already taking a statin would be eligible to consider one, compared with 30% of such men under previous guidelines; and
- Up to 54% of women age 60 or older who do not take statins would be deemed eligible for the drug, compared with 21% under previous guidelines (AP/U-T San Diego, 3/19).
Pencina acknowledged that not every individual who would be deemed eligible for a statin treatment would receive a prescription (Reuters, 3/19).
Meanwhile, two critics of the guidelines -- Paul Ridker and Nancy Cook of Brigham and Women's Hospital, who drew attention to flaws with the risk-assessment approach -- argued that physicians should seek to address the underlying risk factors and promote lifestyle changes before putting their patients on a medication (AP/U-T San Diego, 3/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.