March 27, 2009

Expanding Statin Prescriptions Could Save Lives

Thousands of lives could be saved every year if doctors expanded their criteria for which patients should be taking statins, drugs used to prevent heart attacks and strokes, according to a new study.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University said if statins were routinely prescribed to patients with low cholesterol and high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a blood marker for inflammation, about 260,000 cardiovascular events over five years could be prevented.

Under current standards, statins are recommended for patients who have already had a heart attack or stroke, as well as those with high cholesterol and other risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease such as diabetes.  Based on those criteria, about 33 million older adults are currently eligible to take statins.

With the expanded criteria, that group could be increased by up to 10 million people, researchers said.

"We're showing that doctors may be able to prevent thousands of heart attacks, strokes and death each year if we expand statin-prescribing criteria to include C-reactive protein levels, something we can assess as part of a simple blood test," Erin D. Michos, M.D., M.H.S., an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart and Vascular Institute was quoted as saying.

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Cardiology, March 17, 2009