Background: There is considerable evidence that statins can reduce cardiovascular events. Currently high-risk patients are treated to a target cholesterol concentration. An alternative prescribing strategy (the 'fire-and-forget' approach) would instead deploy low-dose statins more widely. It has been suggested that for the same cost this approach might prevent more cardiovascular events. We have compared the treat-to-target and fire-and-forget statin prescribing strategies with respect to adherence and cardiovascular outcomes.
Methods: We used a population-based record-linkage database containing several data sets linked by a unique patient identifier. We identified two cohorts of patients. Patients in the treat-to-target cohort were prescribed a statin, and subsequent measurement of their cholesterol was followed by upward titration of their statin dose if necessary. Patients in the fire-and-forget cohort were prescribed a statin, but no further cholesterol measurement was observed during the follow-up period.
Findings: Adherence to statin treatment in patients treated to target was significantly better than in patients treated on a fire-and-forget basis (adjusted odds ratio 2.51, 95%CI 2.26-2.78). We found a lower cardiovascular disease (CVD) event rate in patients treated to target than in fire-and-forget patients (hazard ratio of CVD or cardiovascular death 0.41 (0.35-0.48) even after adjustment was made for adherence and baseline CVD risk).
Interpretation: Our findings suggest that adherence to statins is worse in patients treated on a fire-and-forget basis than in patients treated to a target cholesterol concentration, and that this prescribing strategy is associated with worse cardiovascular outcomes.