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More People Could Benefit From Statins

Study Shows Lipid-Lowering Drugs Cost-effective for Most Patients
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

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 event.

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.

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Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal.

Congratulations! Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is borderline high. If your LDL goes higher, your total cholesterol level could become Borderline High. Consider reducing the amount of foods you eat with saturated fats and increasing physical activity. If you get more exercise, your level of "good" HDL cholesterol may increase, which could also help to keep your levels of LDL and total cholesterol in check.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL. The HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is in the Desirable range, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. This may mean that your level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good" cholesterol, is too low. It is best to have a high level of "good" HDL and a low level of "bad" LDL because the HDL helps keep your LDL level in check. Ask your doctor for your HDL level. If your HDL is low, increasing your physical activity can increase it, which may help reduce your LDL level.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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