Cardiologists argue over new US Task Force statin guidance

A number of researchers are opposing the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's new recommendation on statin use, which expands the age of people who should be screened for the cholesterol medication to individuals age 40 and over, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Last week the task force said adults without a history of cardiovascular disease between ages 40 and 75 that have a risk factor of cardiovascular disease and a calculated 10-year risk of a cardiovascular event of 10 percent or higher should use a low- to moderate-dose statin as prevention. 

Some researchers argue the decision will affect public health policy and healthcare costs, as millions of Americans would be added to the 40 million who already take statins at a cost of $16.9 billion annually.

Rita Redberg, MD, a cardiologist and professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, said for people who have not suffered a heart attack or stroke, risk accompanying statin use like memory loss and muscle damage may not outweigh the benefits, according to the report.

"Everyone agrees that there is a very small chance that any particular person taking statins for primary prevention will actually have any provable benefit," Dr. Redberg co-wrote in an editorial published with the task force's guidance in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Another cardiologist, Eric Topol, MD, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla, Calif., told The San Diego Union-Tribune, "This recommendation, if it is fully implemented, would have something like 10 million more Americans taking statins regularly. There is no evidence to support this extremely broad recommendation."  

However, Doug Owens, MD, a Stanford (Calif.) University professor and a former task force member, agrees with the stance. "Altogether, the research showed that low-to-moderate-potency statins can help prevent heart attack, stroke or even death."   

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