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Primary prevention statins benefit ‘may be marginal’ for healthy patients, says study


By Karl Tomusk

21 Oct 2019

The benefits of statins for primary prevention in healthy patients is unclear and a ’waste of healthcare resources’ in some cases, according to a study in the BMJ.

The study from the National University of Ireland, Galway, which analysed primary prevention data for people taking statins for one to five years, found a significant reduction in death from any cause, vascular deaths and coronary or vascular events.

However, it concluded most outcomes were not statistically significant when the baseline risk of developing a cardiovascular disease was factored in, raising uncertainty about the benefits of statins for primary prevention.

‘Low value care’

Paula Byrne, one of the researchers in the study, argued that the use of statins for primary prevention ‘may be an example of low value care and, in some cases, represent a waste of healthcare resources’.

Although the benefits of statins among healthy patients remains unclear, the study also showed that the proportion of over-50s eligible for statins increased from 8% in 1987 to 61% in 2016 due to a change in guidelines on cardiovascular disease.

This meant increasingly lower risk people became eligible for treatment.

But the authors argued that none of those patients classified as low or moderate risk in primary prevention would reach acceptable levels of risk reduction to justify taking a daily statin.

The prescription, use and reimbursement of statins in primary prevention, they said, ‘warrants more careful consideration’. They added that overuse and low value care ‘should become integral to policy making and resource allocation decisions’.

It follows the news that the range of professions that will be able to prescribe ‘low-risk’ medicines is set to increase.


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