You might have heard about new cholesterol screening and treatment guidelines released this week. I had 3 patients ask me about it during a single clinic session, and would have been clueless if it hadn’t been for a very smart Facebook friend. Social media at work..
Here’s the skinny on the new guidelines.
- it is risk for heart disease that is important, not so much an LDL target. Four major groups are deemed high enough risk to warrant treatment
- Use statins. High potency ones like atorvastatin or rosuvastatin for higher risk patients, lower potency (pravastatin) for lower risk patients.
- If you are going to use it, put people on a good dose and leave them there. Really no need to check lipids every year.
- The four groups to consider treating
- Known atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease: less than 75, use high potency statin; >75 use moderate potentcy statin
- LDL >190: high intensity statin
- Diabetic: moderate potency statin, use higher potency if they otherwise are high risk
- 10 year risk of atherosclerotic CV disease >7.5%: use moderate or high potency statin
The risk calculator to find out if your patient fits into that last group is here. It is a little cumbersome to use, but is NOT the same as the Framingham or Reynolds Risk calculators that you may be used to. This might be a good thing, as the “pooled cohort” risk calculator was validated in White and African American men and women, which is somewhere that Framingham falls short.
So that’s the overview. There are lots of questions about these guidelines that I haven’t delved into here. It really represents a major shift in our thinking about cholesterol, which may be a good thing. It remains to be seen if our performance targets will change based on these recommendations. It follow that if our patients are on appropriate doses of high potency statins and the LDL is >100 or >70, or whatever your target may be, they may still be getting the benefit from statins. Adding more drugs just to lower the number may not do anything for their overall risk of heart disease or stroke.
Smarter people than I have had some good things to say about the guidelines. I suggest you take a look at NY time op eds and Dr. Centor’s take- both below.
- Op-Ed Contributors: Don’t Give More Patients Statins (nytimes.com)
- Greatly improved new statin guidelines – with one exception (medrants.com)
- Shift In Cholesterol Advice Could Double Statin Use (npr.org)