Statins: Are They Cost Effective?


Primary Care Blog

Recently we discussed a new study demonstrating the safety of statins and the low risk for potential side effects.  On that same day, a re-analysis of data from WOSCOPS was published early online in the European Heart Journal, in which the authors concluded that 5 years of primary prevention w/statins in middle-aged men was cost-effective in reducing healthcare expenditures related to cardiovascular events & healthcare utilization.  Of note, there was no link w/all-cause mortality.

As a quick refresher, WOSCOPS is the West of Scotland Coronary Prevention Study in which 6,595 participants 45-54yo were randomized to 5yrs of pravastatin vs placebo.  The participants were then followed out to 15yrs for this publication.  Even after taking into account cost of medications, use of pravastatin accounted for decrease rate of cardiovascular events, fewer hospital admissions yet short inpatient stays, plus less heart disease, heart failure & stroke plus less need for revascularization.

So bottom line, statins are safe to use and even cost effective in lowering risk for cardiovascular & cerebrovascular events, even in those who've yet to suffer such an incident.  However, as I noted yesterday, despite this study, statins, like all other medications, are not w/o risk.  Thus, we should not reach out to make use of them unless the patient has failed maximal non-pharmacologic therapy, eg nutrition & physical activity.

Alvin B. Lin, MD, FAAFP

Dr. Lin is an associate professor of family and community medicine at University of Nevada School of Medicine and an adjunct professor of family medicine and geriatrics at Touro University Nevada College of Medicine. He also serves as an advisory medical director for Infinity Hospice Care and as medical director of Lions HealthFirst Foundation. Dr. Lin maintains a small private practice in Las Vegas, NV. The posts represent the views of Dr. Lin, and in no way are to be construed as representative of the above listed organizations. Dr. Lin blogs about current medical literature and news at