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Long-Term Statin Use Best Way to Cut Cardiovascular Deaths
Date:1/12/2010

Emphasis needed on getting patients to keep taking their meds, researchers say

TUESDAY, Jan. 12 (HealthDay News) -- A 50 percent increase in patients adhering to long-term treatment with cholesterol-lowering statins could prevent twice as many deaths from heart attack and stroke, British researchers say.

It's estimated that only about half of patients prescribed statins to prevent cardiovascular disease are still taking them five years later, according to background information in the analysis.

The researchers reviewed published studies on the sustained use of statins by patients to calculate an assumed average of their capacity to continue treatment over 10 years. The team then used cholesterol and blood pressure data from more than 38,000 patients in Australia to calculate the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease and the advantages of preventive strategies.

The study authors then calculated patient risk scores according to three scenarios: using the current U.K. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines, which recommend that anyone with a 20 percent or greater risk of heart attack or stroke over the next 10 years be prescribed a statin; increased adherence to statin treatment; and lowering the threshold for starting on statins to increase the number of patients taking the drugs.

On the basis of risk factors among the Australian patients, the researchers calculated that 5,390 new cases of cardiovascular disease and 710 related deaths would occur over 10 years. They also determined that 24 percent of patients would be eligible for statin treatment under NICE guidelines. If half (4,563) of those patients fully complied with statin treatment, an estimated 174 cases of cardiovascular disease and 70 deaths would be prevented.

Expanding treatment criteria to allow for 6,991 patients to take statins over the long term would prevent an additional 70 cases of car
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