Cholesterol treatment and changes in guidelines in an academic medical practice

Am J Med. 2015 Apr;128(4):403-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2014.10.039. Epub 2014 Nov 18.


Background: National guidelines are intended to influence physician cholesterol treatment practices, yet few studies have documented the effect of new guidelines on actual prescribing behaviors and impacts on patient eligibility for treatment. We describe current cholesterol treatment in an academic practice of Family and Internal Medicine physicians as well the effect of a change in cholesterol treatment guidelines from 2001 Adult Treatment Panel III (ATPIII) to 2013 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) guidelines.

Methods: Medical records were extracted from primary care patients aged 40-75 years with at least one outpatient visit from January 1, 2012 to July 31, 2013; patients were included if they had records of cholesterol testing, blood pressure measurement, sex, race, and smoking status. Patients were classified into ATPIII and ACC/AHA categories based on clinical variables (eg, diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease), Framingham Risk Score, and 10-year atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease risk.

Results: There were 4536 patients included in the analysis. Of these, 71% met ATPIII goals and 56% met ACC/AHA guidelines, a 15% decrease. Forty-three percent of high-risk patients met their low-density lipoprotein goals and 46% were on statins. Overall, 32% of patients would need to be started on a statin, 12% require an increased dose, and 6% could stop statins. Of patients considered low risk by ATPIII guidelines, 271 would be eligible for treatment by ACC/AHA guidelines, whereas 129 patients were shifted from intermediate risk to low risk with the change in guidelines.

Conclusions: The ACC/AHA guidelines expand the number of patients recommended to receive statins, particularly among patients who were previously thought to be at moderate risk, and would increase the intensity of treatment for many patients at high risk. Significant numbers of patients at risk for cardiovascular events were not receiving guideline-based treatment. New cholesterol guidelines may make treatment decisions easier.

Keywords: Atherosclerotic disease reduction; Cholesterol guidelines; Cholesterol treatment; Statin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers* / standards
  • Academic Medical Centers* / statistics & numerical data
  • Academic Medical Centers* / trends
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • American Heart Association
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Atherosclerosis / blood
  • Atherosclerosis / drug therapy
  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology
  • Atherosclerosis / prevention & control*
  • Cardiology
  • Cholesterol / blood*
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / blood
  • Hypercholesterolemia / drug therapy*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic* / standards
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Societies, Medical
  • United States


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Cholesterol