New statin guidelines have postive impact, studies suggest

WASHINGTON — New guidelines for treating patients at risk for heart disease are having a positive impact, two studies recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest.

In 2002, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended statins for patients with a 20 percent risk or higher of cardiovascular disease. But in 2013, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association lowered the threshold to a 7.5 percent risk.

Now, more Americans are taking cholesterol-lowering statins for their hearts.

Dr. Warren Levy, chief medical officer at Virginia Heart, said the findings seemed to show that “with this wider net for treating patients, we are actually identifying a higher percentage of patients who actually go on and develop heart disease and heart events.”

The JAMA studies also showed that expanding the pool of patients on statins has been cost effective.

Levy said lowering the threshold was a controversial move at the time, with some experts warning that too many patients would be taking medications that they did not really need.

“That was far more aggressive than the prior guidelines that cardiologists and medical doctors have been using in this country for years,” Levy said.

An editorial that accompanied the two studies, which were published in the July 14 issue of JAMA, pointed to the potential benefits of a bigger pool of statin users, stating that a wider net could prevent as many as 160,000 cardiac events each year.

Levy said he would not be surprised if the threshold for statin use were eventually lowered to a 3 percent risk.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up