The efficiency of cardiovascular risk assessment: do the right patients get statin treatment?

Tjeerd-Pieter van Staa, Liam Smeeth, Edmond S-W Ng, Ben Goldacre, Martin Gulliford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate targeting of statin prescribing for primary prevention to those with high cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.

DESIGN: Two cohort studies including the general population and initiators of statins aged 35-74 years.

SETTING: UK primary care records in the Clinical Practice Research Datalink.

PATIENTS: 3.8 million general population patients and 300 914 statin users.

INTERVENTION: Statin prescribing.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Statin prescribing by CVD risk; observed 5-year CVD risks; variability between practices.

RESULTS: Statin prescribing increased substantially over time to patients with high 10-year CVD risk (≥ 20%): 7.0% of these received a statin prior to 2007, and 30.4% in 2007 onwards. Prescribing to patients with low risk (<15%) also increased (from 1.9% to 5.0%). Only about half the patients initiating statin treatment were high risk according to CVD risk score. The 5-year CVD risks, as observed during statin treatment, reduced over calendar time (from 17.0% to 7.1%). There was a large variation between general practices in the percentage of high-risk patients prescribed a statin in 2007 onwards, ranging from 8.2% to 61.5%. For low-risk patients, these varied from 2.1% to 29.1%.

CONCLUSIONS: There appeared to be substantive overuse in low CVD risk and underuse in high CVD risk (600 000 and 850 000 patients, respectively, in the UK since 2007). There is wide variation between practices in statin prescribing to patients at high CVD risk. There is a clear need for randomised trials for the best strategy to target statin treatment and manage CVD risk for primary prevention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1597-602
Number of pages6
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Drug Utilization
  • Drug Utilization Review
  • Dyslipidemias
  • Female
  • Great Britain
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection
  • Physician's Practice Patterns
  • Primary Health Care
  • Primary Prevention
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


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