Optimizing statin treatment for primary prevention of coronary artery disease

Ann Intern Med. 2010 Jan 19;152(2):69-77. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-152-2-201001190-00004.


Background: Although treating to lipid targets ("treat to target") is widely recommended for coronary artery disease (CAD) prevention, some have advocated administering fixed doses of statins based on a person's estimated net benefit ("tailored treatment").

Objective: To examine how a tailored treatment approach to statin therapy compares with a treat-to-target approach.

Design: Simulated model of population-level effects of treat-to-target and tailored treatment approaches to statin therapy.

Data sources: Statin trials from 1994 to 2009 and nationally representative CAD risk factor data.

Target population: U.S. persons aged 30 to 75 years with no history of myocardial infarction.

Time horizon: Lifetime effects of 5 years of treatment.

Perspective: Societal and patient.

Intervention: Tailored treatment based on a person's 5-year CAD risk (simvastatin, 40 mg, for 5% to 15% CAD risk and atorvastatin, 40 mg, for CAD risk >15%) versus treat-to-target approaches that escalate statin dose per National Cholesterol Education Program [NCEP] III guidelines (including an intensive approach that advances treatment whenever intensification is optional by NCEP III criteria).

Outcome measures: Quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs).

Results of base-case analysis: Compared with the standard NCEP III approach, the intensive NCEP III approach treated 15 million more persons and saved 570,000 more QALYs over 5 years. The tailored strategy treated a similar number of persons, as did the intensive NCEP III approach, but saved 500,000 more QALYs and treated fewer persons with high-dose statins.

Results of sensitivity analysis: No circumstances were found in which a treat-to-target approach was preferable to tailored treatment.

Limitation: Model assumptions were based on available clinical data, which included few persons 75 years or older.

Conclusion: A tailored treatment strategy prevents more CAD events while treating fewer persons with high-dose statins than low-density lipoprotein cholesterol-based target approaches. Results were robust, even with assumptions favoring a treat-to-target approach.

Primary funding source: Department of Veteran Affairs Health Services Research & Development Service's Quality Enhancement Research Initiative.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Computer Simulation
  • Coronary Artery Disease / prevention & control*
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Prevention*
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors