More People Could Benefit From Statins
Study Shows Lipid-Lowering Drugs Cost-effective for Most Patients
Nov. 9, 2006 -- Cholesterol-lowering statin therapy is both beneficial and
cost-effective for a wider range of the population than has previously been
treated with the drugs, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the University of Oxford who conducted a cost analysis of
statins concluded that even people with relatively low heart
attack or stroke should be considered for treatment.
They found treatment with a generic statin to be cost-effective, even for
people as young as 35 or as old as 85, whose annual risk of having a major
heart or stroke event was as little as 1%.
This is well below the treatment threshold normally recommended in Europe
and the U.S.
"We know that statins are very effective for reducing the risks
associated with cardiovascular disease," senior researcher Jane Armitage of
the Heart Protection Study tells WebMD. "As these drugs come off patent and
become cheaper, they should be considered for a wider population."
Generic Choices Growing
Millions of people currently take statin drugs like Crestor, Lescol,
Lipitor, Pravachol, or Zocor to lower their LDL "bad" cholesterol and
reduce their risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or other cardiovascular
Two new generic versions of the drugs recently became available in the U.S.
Zocor is now sold generically as simvastatin and Pravachol is sold generically
as pravastatin. The generic statin lovastatin is also widely prescribed.
According to a recent investigation from the Consumers Union, which
publishes the magazine Consumer Reports, generic statins could save
patients in the U.S. as much as $1,800 per year.
The UK Heart Protection Study included 20,536 patients with heart disease, other disease with artery blockage
such as stroke, or diabetes who were treated for an average of five
years with 40 milligrams daily of simvastatin or placebo. Study participants
ranged in age from 40 to 80.
Last year, Armitage and colleagues reported that treatment for several years
was cost-effective for a wide range of people with established heart disease,
stroke, or diabetes when cheaper, generic statins are used.
Using data from the study, the researchers estimated the lifetime
cost-effectiveness of statin use among people who were both younger and
healthier than the people recruited for the study.
Younger, high-risk patients were found to benefit the most from lifetime
statin use, in terms of life expectancy. But even young people at moderate risk
benefited, researchers concluded.
The estimated cost per year of life gained ranged from $858 to $4,700 for
people with a 5%, five-year risk of having a major cardiovascular event
(between ages of 35 to 85) at the start of treatment.
In their latest report, published online Friday in the journal BMJ,
the study group concluded that over the course of a lifetime, treatment with
generic statins actually saves health care dollars or is cost-effective for
many more people than previously thought.