Objective: To evaluate physicians' attitudes and adherence to the use of risk scores in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Design and methods: A cross-sectional survey of 2056 physicians involved in the primary prevention of CVD. Participants included cardiologists (47%), general practitioners (42%), and endocrinologists (11%) from several geographical regions: Brazil (n = 968), USA (n = 381), Greece (n = 275), Chile (n = 157), Venezuela (n = 128), Portugal (n = 42), The Netherlands (n = 41), and Central America (Costa Rica, Panama, El Salvador and Guatemala; n = 64).
Results: The main outcome measure was the percentage of responses on a multiple-choice questionnaire describing a hypothetical asymptomatic patient at intermediate risk for CVD according to the Framingham Risk Score. Only 48% of respondents reported regular use of CVD risk scores to tailor preventive treatment in the case scenario. Of non-users, nearly three-quarters indicated that 'It takes up too much of my time' (52%) or 'I don't believe they add value to the clinical evaluation' (21%). Only 56% of respondents indicated that they would prescribe lipid-lowering therapy for the hypothetical intermediate-risk patient. A significantly greater proportion of regular users than non-users of CVD risk scores identified the need for lipid-lowering therapy in the hypothetical patient (59 vs. 41%; p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: Based on a survey conducted in a 'real-world' setting, risk scores are generally not used by a majority of physicians to guide primary prevention in asymptomatic persons at intermediate risk for CVD. Appropriate prescribing of lipid-lowering therapy in such patients is equally neglected. Changing physicians' attitudes towards the use of CVD risk scores is one of several challenges that need to be addressed to reduce the world-wide burden of CVD.