Prescribing behaviour according to Dutch and European guidelines on the management of hypercholesterolaemia (1992–1999)

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Abstract

Background

The success of the full implementation of a new guideline may depend on the observed discrepancy between daily medical practice developed before the release of the guideline and new treatment recommendations issued by the guideline.

Aim

To assess whether the initiation of statin treatment for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in an elderly population was in agreement with guidelines.

Methods

Data were obtained from the Rotterdam Study, a prospective population-based cohort study consisting of 7983 subjects aged ≥ 55 years. In the period 1992–1999, all patients starting statins for primary prevention were selected. Treatment eligibility was established according to Dutch guidelines based on considerations of cost effectiveness (1998) and European guidelines based on clinical effectiveness (1998 and 2003).

Results

Only 5.7%[95% confidence interval (CI) 3.1, 8.3] of the 299 subjects starting statins for primary prevention met the eligibility criteria of the Dutch guidelines. Most patients (92.0%, 95% CI 88.9, 95.1) met the criteria of the 2003 European guidelines. Patients who did not meet any eligibility criteria were female and had one or less cardiovascular risk factor, except for two patients with total cholesterol levels < 5 mmol l−1 prior to start of statin therapy.

Conclusions

The use of statins was in agreement with the most recent European guidelines in over 90% of elderly patients who started statins for primary prevention, but in only 6% of these patients according to the Dutch guidelines. As long as existing guidelines are as discrepant as they are now, variation in agreement between physicians' prescribing and guideline recommendations is unavoidable.

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