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J Cardiovasc Risk. 2000 Aug;7(4):245-9.

Hyperlipidaemia and primary prevention of coronary heart disease: are the right patients being treated?

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Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley, West Midlands, UK.



In 1997, the Standing Medical Advisory Committee report suggested that patients with a coronary heart disease risk of 3% per year or greater should be considered appropriate for lipid-lowering medication. The report stated that cholesterol concentration alone is a poor predictor of absolute risk of coronary heart disease and recommended the Sheffield table as a method of estimating the coronary heart disease risk.


To assess the impact of the Standing Medical Advisory Committee report on the management of patients with hyperlipidaemia in the primary prevention of coronary heart disease in primary care.


A survey questionnaire giving the clinical details of 20 patients with various coronary heart disease risk factors was sent to 200 general practitioners in the West Midlands, UK.


Forty-eight percent of the respondents used clinical assessment/perception as the sole means of risk assessment and 26% used the Sheffield table. In patients who did not require treatment, 40.1% of the decisions were inappropriate and, in patients who required treatment, 35.1% of the decisions were inappropriate. Overall, inappropriate decisions were made in 37.9% of the responses. Despite the clear advice in the Standing Medical Advisory Committee report on the importance of incorporating multiple risk factors in estimating absolute coronary heart disease risk, only total cholesterol and triglycerides were significant in influencing treatment decisions.


The Standing Medical Advisory Committee recommendations on the management of hyperlipidaemia in primary prevention of coronary heart disease are not widely used. Large savings could be made by correctly identifying and treating individuals at high risk. We recommend use of the full Framingham risk score in assessment of coronary heart disease risk in primary care.

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