Statins, a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol levels, can be cost-effective and also prevent additional heart disease cases in the United States, a new study supporting the current controversial guidelines by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) stated.
According to the guidelines issued in November 2013, AHA and ACC advised statin prescription to people with 7.5 percent or higher risk of developing heart problems over the next 10 years. However, previous recommendations had advised statin use only to those with 10 percent to 20 percent or higher risk of cardiovascular problems.
The new guidelines remain disputed because experts believe that healthy adults would be overtreated, and that more people would be at increased risk of developing side effects such as memory loss, Type 2 diabetes and muscle damage.
"The new cholesterol treatment guidelines have been controversial, so our goal for this study was to use the best available evidence to quantify the tradeoffs in health benefits, risks, and costs of expanding statin treatment," Ankur Pandya, study's lead author and assistant professor of health decision science at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a statement released Tuesday.
The study findings showed that under the current guidelines, an additional 161,560 cardiovascular-related cases could be averted because of statins. It also stated that cardiovascular problems of about 48 percent to 67 percent of adults aged between 40 and 75 can be treated with statins.
“We found that the new guidelines represent good value for money spent on healthcare, and that more lenient treatment thresholds might be justifiable on cost-effectiveness grounds even accounting for side-effects such as diabetes and myalgia,” Pandya said.
The incidences of cardiovascular diseases and deaths in the U.S. have reduced with widespread use of statins, the researchers said. According to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, a quarter of Americans aged 45 and above take statin.
The study was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.