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Circulation. 2011 Jul 12;124(2):146-53. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.986349. Epub 2011 Jun 27.

Cost-effectiveness of statin therapy for primary prevention in a low-cost statin era.

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  • 1Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.



With wide availability of low-cost generics, primary prevention with statins has become less expensive. We projected the cost-effectiveness of expanded statin prescribing strategies using low-cost generics and identified conditions under which aggressive prescribing ceases to be cost-effective.


We simulated expanded statin prescribing strategies with the coronary heart disease policy model, a Markov model of the US population >35 years of age. If statins cost $4/mo, treatment thresholds of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol >160 mg/dL for low-risk persons (0 to 1 risk factor), >130 mg/dL for moderate-risk persons (≥2 risk factors and 10-year risk <10%), and >100 mg/dL for moderately high-risk persons (≥2 risk factors and 10-year risk >10%) would reduce annual healthcare costs by $430 million compared with Adult Treatment Panel III guidelines. Lowering thresholds to >130 mg/dL for persons with 0 risk factors and >100 mg/dL for persons with 1 risk factor and treating all moderate- and moderately high-risk persons regardless of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol would provide additional health benefits for $9900 per quality-adjusted life-year. These findings are insensitive to most adverse effect assumptions (including statin-associated diabetes mellitus and severe hypothetical effects) but are sensitive to large reductions in the efficacy of statins or to a long-term disutility burden for which a patient would trade 30 to 80 days of life to avoid 30 years of statins.


Low-cost statins are cost-effective for most persons with even modestly elevated cholesterol or any coronary heart disease risk factors if they do not mind taking a pill daily. Adverse effects are unlikely to outweigh benefits in any subgroup in which statins are found to be efficacious.

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