Cost-effectiveness of 10-Year Risk Thresholds for Initiation of Statin Therapy for Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease

JAMA. 2015 Jul 14;314(2):142-50. doi: 10.1001/jama.2015.6822.


Importance: The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) cholesterol treatment guidelines have wide-scale implications for treating adults without history of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) with statins.

Objective: To estimate the cost-effectiveness of various 10-year ASCVD risk thresholds that could be used in the ACC/AHA cholesterol treatment guidelines.

Design, setting, and participants: Microsimulation model, including lifetime time horizon, US societal perspective, 3% discount rate for costs, and health outcomes. In the model, hypothetical individuals from a representative US population aged 40 to 75 years received statin treatment, experienced ASCVD events, and died from ASCVD-related or non-ASCVD-related causes based on ASCVD natural history and statin treatment parameters. Data sources for model parameters included National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, large clinical trials and meta-analyses for statin benefits and treatment, and other published sources.

Main outcomes and measures: Estimated ASCVD events prevented and incremental costs per quality-adjusted life-year (QALY) gained.

Results: In the base-case scenario, the current ASCVD threshold of 7.5% or higher, which was estimated to be associated with 48% of adults treated with statins, had an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of $37,000/QALY compared with a 10% or higher threshold. More lenient ASCVD thresholds of 4.0% or higher (61% of adults treated) and 3.0% or higher (67% of adults treated) had ICERs of $81,000/QALY and $140,000/QALY, respectively. Shifting from a 7.5% or higher ASCVD risk threshold to a 3.0% or higher ASCVD risk threshold was estimated to be associated with an additional 161,560 cardiovascular disease events averted. Cost-effectiveness results were sensitive to changes in the disutility associated with taking a pill daily, statin price, and the risk of statin-induced diabetes. In probabilistic sensitivity analysis, there was a higher than 93% chance that the optimal ASCVD threshold was 5.0% or lower using a cost-effectiveness threshold of $100,000/QALY.

Conclusions and relevance: In this microsimulation model of US adults aged 45 to 75 years [corrected], the current 10-year ASCVD risk threshold (≥7.5% risk threshold) used in the ACC/AHA cholesterol treatment guidelines has an acceptable cost-effectiveness profile (ICER, $37,000/QALY), but more lenient ASCVD thresholds would be optimal using cost-effectiveness thresholds of $100,000/QALY (≥4.0% risk threshold) or $150,000/QALY (≥3.0% risk threshold). The optimal ASCVD threshold was sensitive to patient preferences for taking a pill daily, changes to statin price, and the risk of statin-induced diabetes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Atherosclerosis / drug therapy*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / economics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / economics*
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years*
  • Risk


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors