Time to improve statin prescription guidelines in low-risk patients?

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Abstract

Background

The challenge of the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) is to identify patients who would benefit from treatment with statins. Statins are currently prescribed to many patients, even those at a low 10-year risk of CVD. These latter patients may not be eligible for statins according to current guidelines.

Design

This study investigated the prescription of guideline-consistent (according to guidelines) and guideline-inconsistent (not according to guidelines) lipid-lowering treatment in primary prevention in a large contemporary Dutch cohort study (Lifelines).

Methods

Lifelines is a large cohort study from the Netherlands. Participants were recruited between 2006 and 2013. They completed questionnaires and underwent a physical examination. Participants with previous CVD were excluded. Statins and ezetimibe were grouped as statin treatment. The Dutch guideline on cardiovascular management was used to assess eligibility for statins.

Results

Of 147,785 participants, 7092 (4.8%) reported statin treatment. In 4667 (66%) participants, statin treatment was inconsistent with the Dutch guideline. A total of 78% of these participants had a low 10-year predicted CVD risk. Multivariable logistic regression analysis showed that female sex and smoking were strongly associated with guideline-inconsistent treatment. Interestingly, 65% of the these participants had low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels above the 95th percentile, adjusted for age and sex, two or more major risk factors of CVD or a positive family history of premature CVD. Therefore treatment might be reasonable.

Conclusions

There is a large inconsistency between guideline recommendations and the prescription of statins in clinical practice in the Netherlands. This is especially true for patients with low CVD risk. Many of these patients probably had risk-increasing circumstances justifying treatment.

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