Doctors can predict the benefits of statin use for preventing cardiovascular disease for asymptomatic patients using specialized tools, including a web-based calculator, according to a study published recently in the journal PLOS Medicine. While the tool currently is not ready for clinical use, researchers say that once the underlying model is validated independently, it could be useful for such discussions with patients, particularly those at high risk of developing CVD.
The predicted gains in life expectancy due to statin use generally were small, according to the researchers. Of more than 2,400 participants, ages 55 and older who were free of CVD, the average gain in life expectancy was only 0.3 years; the gain in coronary heart disease/stroke-free life expectancy with statin therapy was 0.7 years.
Still, the researchers say that those figures are "larger than [those] calculated for some other preventive interventions" geared toward general populations.
"Ideally, communication of personalized outcomes will ultimately result in better clinical outcomes," the researchers say. "Improved understanding of potential gains will, however, not necessarily go hand in hand with an improvement in clinical outcomes, because patients could be less likely to choose statin therapy when more information on benefits is provided."
According to a MedPage Today article on the study, the researchers identified several variables associated with statin-related gains, then developed the online calculator and color charts to aid in talks with patients. They then used a previously developed computer model based on data from a Dutch study to develop their prediction tools.