Only Half of Patients Taking Statins Reach Cholesterol Targets: Study

Just half of patients who take statins to prevent heart disease achieved their cholesterol reduction goals, a new study finds.

It included more than 165,000 people in the U.K. who had not been treated for heart disease or stroke and were prescribed a statin between 1990 and 2016, CNN reported.

An "appropriate" response to statin therapy was defined as a 40 percent or more decline in "bad" LDL cholesterol.

After two years of taking the drugs, only 48.8 percent of the patients reached that target, according to the study published Monday in the journal Heart.

The researchers also found that patients who did not have adequate declines in their LDL cholesterol levels were 22 percent more likely to develop heart disease than those who did meet their cholesterol reduction goals.

Just over one-third of all American adults, 78 million, take statins or are eligible to take them, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The number of Americans on statins who don't achieve cholesterol reduction goals is likely similar to the British findings, said Dr. David Fischman, co-director of the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

"Taking care of patients, treating them with statins, is a job. It's a lot of work. It's not easy. It's a time commitment to get it right," he told CNN. "When you start someone on a cholesterol medication, you're supposed to check their cholesterol in four to 12 weeks and then make adjustments, and this highlights the importance of doing that."

Some of the findings may be due to prescribing practices, Dr. Marcio Bittencourt, a cardiologist at the University Hospital of Sao Paulo in Brazil, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

He said that patients who achieved their cholesterol reduction goals were more likely to be prescribed stronger statins, probably because they started with higher levels of cholesterol, CNN reported.

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