Article Text

Original article
The efficiency of cardiovascular risk assessment: do the right patients get statin treatment?
  1. Tjeerd-Pieter van Staa1,2,3,
  2. Liam Smeeth3,
  3. Edmond S-W Ng1,3,
  4. Ben Goldacre3,
  5. Martin Gulliford4
  1. 1Clinical Practice Research Datalink, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, London, UK
  2. 2Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Clinical Pharmacology, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  3. 3Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  4. 4Primary Care and Public Health Sciences, King's College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor T P van Staa, Clinical Practice Research Datalink, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, 151 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9SZ, UK; vanstaat{at}


Objective To evaluate targeting of statin prescribing for primary prevention to those with high cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.

Design Two cohort studies including the general population and initiators of statins aged 35–74 years.

Setting UK primary care records in the Clinical Practice Research Datalink.

Patients 3.8 million general population patients and 300 914 statin users.

Intervention Statin prescribing.

Main outcome measures Statin prescribing by CVD risk; observed 5-year CVD risks; variability between practices.

Results Statin prescribing increased substantially over time to patients with high 10-year CVD risk (≥20%): 7.0% of these received a statin prior to 2007, and 30.4% in 2007 onwards. Prescribing to patients with low risk (<15%) also increased (from 1.9% to 5.0%). Only about half the patients initiating statin treatment were high risk according to CVD risk score. The 5-year CVD risks, as observed during statin treatment, reduced over calendar time (from 17.0% to 7.1%). There was a large variation between general practices in the percentage of high-risk patients prescribed a statin in 2007 onwards, ranging from 8.2% to 61.5%. For low-risk patients, these varied from 2.1% to 29.1%.

Conclusions There appeared to be substantive overuse in low CVD risk and underuse in high CVD risk (600 000 and 850 000 patients, respectively, in the UK since 2007). There is wide variation between practices in statin prescribing to patients at high CVD risk. There is a clear need for randomised trials for the best strategy to target statin treatment and manage CVD risk for primary prevention.

This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 3.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from

Supplementary materials

  • Supplementary Data

    This web only file has been produced by the BMJ Publishing Group from an electronic file supplied by the author(s) and has not been edited for content.

    Files in this Data Supplement:

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles