Many people with heart disease underuse high-intensity statin treatment

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Statins, well-regarded for their ability to lower cholesterol, are an integral part of managing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD)—a condition characterized by a build-up of plaques in the arteries.

However, a recent study reveals that high-intensity statins are not being employed as extensively as they could be in standard care, potentially leaving many patients with inadequate management of their condition.

The Study and Its Findings

The study, conducted by Dr. Ann Marie Navar and her team from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, investigated the utilization of statins, focusing on their intensity, among ASCVD patients, and observed the subsequent changes in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels.

The study was constructed using electronic health record data from 322,153 outpatient visits, representing patients from 92 U.S. health systems between 2017 and 2018.

Out of these patients, 76.1% were administered statins, but only 39.4% received high-intensity statins, highlighting a gap in optimum disease management.

Men were more likely to receive high-intensity statins compared to women.

Additionally, it was noted that the older the patients, the less likely they were to use statins, with the odds decreasing with every five-year increase in age post-60 years.

Furthermore, patients diagnosed with conditions like peripheral artery disease and cerebrovascular disease were less likely to use high-intensity statins compared to those with coronary heart disease.

Interestingly, most of the patients had elevated LDL-C levels at the baseline of the study, including those on low to moderate-intensity statins and those not on statins at all.

One year into the study, only a small percentage had achieved the desired LDL-C levels below 70 mg/dL.

Implications and Recommendations

This underutilization of high-intensity statins points to a larger issue—therapeutic inertia in lipid management for ASCVD patients.

Inertia, in this case, refers to the lack of initiation or intensification of therapy when treatment goals are not met.

This lack of optimization in treatment regimens could lead to suboptimal outcomes for patients, impacting their quality of life and overall health in the long run.

Addressing this inertia is crucial. More in-depth discussions are needed between healthcare providers and patients about the benefits and risks of high-intensity statins.

Clear, comprehensive patient education on the importance of managing LDL-C levels and the role of high-intensity statins can empower patients to make informed decisions regarding their health and can potentially optimize treatment outcomes.

In conclusion, the study led by Dr. Ann Marie Navar underscores the need for the medical community to reevaluate and enhance the current approaches to managing lipid levels in ASCVD patients.

Enhanced utilization of high-intensity statins can significantly contribute to better management of cardiovascular diseases and can help in achieving the desired therapeutic outcomes, improving the overall quality of life for individuals living with ASCVD.

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The research findings can be found in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

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