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U.K. Statin Threshold Found Cheaper, But Less Effective

Proposed new threshold would mean treating 75 percent of middle-aged men with statins

WEDNESDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- The U.K. national recommendation for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with statin medications is significantly less expensive but also less effective than the U.S. and European recommendations, according to a study published online May 22 in Heart.

Paul N. Durrington, M.D., of Manchester Royal Infirmary in the U.K., and colleagues applied the three recommendations to 1,653 men aged 49 to 65. During the 10-year study, the subjects experienced 212 heart attacks or strokes.

Under the current U.K. recommendation, which targets patients at highest risk, the researchers calculated that the number needed to treat (NNT) to prevent a first cardiovascular disease event is 12, which decreases the overall rate of myocardial infarction and stroke by 9 percent. Under the U.S. and European recommendations, they calculated a NNT of 21, which decreases the rate by 27 percent. They also calculated that a proposed new U.K. recommendation would require a NNT of 22, which would mean treating 75 percent of middle-aged men with statins.

"Whether cholesterol lowering on such a scale should be attempted with medication raises philosophical, psychological and economic considerations, particularly in view of the high likelihood of individual benefit from statin treatment," the authors conclude. "More effective nutritional policies to reduce serum cholesterol on a population level and reduce the requirement for statins in primary prevention should also be considered."

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