Statins remain important; Patient selection is key

1 November 2013

Public debate — sparked by the ABC Catalyst program — on whether management of cardiovascular risk places undue emphasis on blood cholesterol has raised questions about current prescribing practices for lipid lowering medicines and the role of statins in the prevention of cardiovascular events.

High blood cholesterol is one of several well established risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) and lowering levels of cholesterol, especially ’low density’ or LDL cholesterol, plays an important role in preventing cardiovascular events.

NPS MedicineWise CEO Dr Lynn Weekes says that the guidelines are clear and the evidence is strong — statins remain one of most effective drug strategies for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, but patient selection is key.

“The prescribing of statins should follow national guidelines based on absolute CVD risk assessment. In people who are deemed to have moderate to high risk, statins have an important, clinically proven role to play in the prevention of CVD,” said Dr Weekes.

Dr Weekes also expressed concern that misleading media reports may cause people to stop taking their statins, which may put them at increased risk of a cardiovascular event, particularly if they have already had one previously.

“Statins are not only effective in preventing cardiovascular events in people at high risk but who have never had heart disease but are also effective in preventing recurrence in those who have had previous CVD events. Despite this we know that about 1 in 4 Australians prescribed a cholesterol-lowering medicine stop taking it within the first year,” says Dr Weekes.

“This is often because they don't think the medicine is making a difference, but in fact the benefit is cumulative and statins provide greater protective benefit after the first year of taking them.

“In light of the current debate around this issue, we urge health professionals to ensure they are up to date with the latest evidence and guidelines and work in partnership with their patients to manage their risk of CVD.”

For up to date information on the use of statins, NPS MedicineWise has collated information and resources for health professionals. This information is available at


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