Study: Give more statins, save more money

Are statin drugs all they're cracked up to be? That's been a hotly debated question over the past year or so. Some experts question whether cholesterol control really improves cardiovascular outcomes, while others not only back statin use for folks with high cholesterol, but for lots of other potential patients as well.

It's the latter crowd that's gained new ammo today, with a new study published in the journal Circulation. Researchers compared the cost-effectiveness of statin use in patients who meet current guidelines; in patients who don't meet current guidelines but have high CRP, a biomarker some say justifies statin use; and patients who have cardiac risk factors but don't meet current statin guidelines.

The result? It saves money to give statins both to patients with high CRP and to those with risk factors but no CRP test. The cost of the drugs was outweighed by the reduced cost of treating CV trouble. "The real message is that either one of those strategies looked better than what we do now," researcher Dr. Mark Hlatky of the Stanford University School of Medicine tells Reuters. "Of the two alternatives, the idea of just lowering the threshold and not bothering with the CRP test came out ahead."

If doctors adopt that approach, statin drugs could get many thousands of new users--and drugmakers could get thousands of new customers. AstraZeneca's Crestor could especially benefit, because one study has shown that it's useful in patients with high CRP.

- read the Reuters story