Rx to Stop Heart Disease Before it Starts

Statin medication prevented heart disease in men with high cholesterol

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Preventing heart disease can be easier and less expensive than treating it. For people with high cholesterol, there are ways to prevent heart disease and keep those tickers healthy for years.

A recent long-term study followed a group of middle-aged men with high cholesterol. All of them took cholesterol-lowering medications to prevent heart disease.

The results of this study showed lower rates of heart disease, heart attack and stroke in the men after 15 years.

The study also showed this treatment reduced healthcare costs.

"Get your cholesterol checked."

Alex McConnachie, PhD, and Ian Ford, MD, PhD, both from the Robertson Centre for Biostatistics at the University of Glasgow in the UK, and their team looked at the long-term effects of taking statins.

Statin medications have been on the market since the late 1980s. They help lower bad cholesterol levels in the blood. High cholesterol has been associated with the risk for developing heart disease. 

For this study, the researchers used data on 6,595 men who had been part of the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study between 1989 and 1995.

All of the men were between the ages of 45 and 54 and had high cholesterol but had had no previous heart attacks at the start of the study. The men were randomly split into two groups.

In one group, the men were given 40 mg of a statin medication called pravastatin (brand name Pravachol) to take every day for five years. The men in the other group were given a fake pill, or placebo, to take every day for five years.

After those five years, 5.5 percent the men in the statin group had died from heart disease, compared to 7.9 percent of the men in the placebo group.

After 15 years, the researchers followed up with 1,000 of the men, many of whom had continued to take statins.

Continued statin use reduced the risk of heart attack by 31 percent. Hospital admissions for heart disease were reduced by 26 percent and stroke risk was reduced by 19 percent in those that took statins.

Risk of going to the hospital for heart failure was reduced by 43 percent in statin users. Overall heart trouble hospital admissions were reduced by 28 percent in statin users.

The researchers then calculated how much money it cost for these men to take preventive statins compared to how much money it would have cost to treat the men for heart disease.

Heart disease can result in a heart attack, heart failure or stroke and may require surgery to remove blockages in the heart's blood vessels.

Including the cost of the prescription statin medications and the cost of visits to the doctor’s office to monitor heart health, the researchers estimated the use of preventive statins for 1,000 men saved $1,070,822 in medical expenses over 15 years.

The researchers also noted the use of preventive statins helped give the men more high quality years of life in the absence of heart disease.

Compared to the men who didn’t take the statins, the researchers found that statin use resulted in 163 fewer hospital admissions per 1,000 men, and saved the men from 1,836 days in the hospital per 1,000 men.

The researchers concluded using statins as a way to prevent heart disease in middle-aged men with high cholesterol reduced the need for hospital resources and healthcare costs, as well as increasing their quality of life.

Previous research has shown that statins may have the potential to increase the risk for developing diabetes. The researchers in this study did not find an increase in diabetes in men who had taken statins in the first five years of the study.  

This study was published in July in the European Heart Journal.

Bristol-Myers Squibb, Sankyo Company and Pfizer provided funding for this project. Dr. Walker reported a financial relationship with Astra Zeneca, Merck, Sharpe and Dohme.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 11, 2013
Last Updated:
July 30, 2013