High cholesterol? For most patients, that means starting a statin regimen. But now research suggests that it may be time to embrace a more nuanced approach to lowering LDL levels.
In a newly-released study, UK-based researchers discovered that 51.2 percent of patients have a “sub-optimal” response to statin therapy. The study assessed data from more than 165,000 patients who for two years had taken prescribed statins to lower their LDL cholesterol. “These patients had a significantly increased risk of future cardiovascular disease,” the authors concluded.
The study, a 26-year look at statin response, reinforces the need to better understand differences among patients. While statins are a good treatment option for many, researcher Dr. Stephen Weng told BBC News, the ability to “tailor more effective treatment for those millions of patients who are simply blanket-prescribed statins” would be better.
Researchers noted many of the patients who did not achieve their lower target LDL were taking a lower potency dose of statin, which may have contributed to their cholesterol remaining elevated. They were also quick to point out that patients should talk to their general practitioner if they have questions about their treatment plan.
While statins historically have been the go-to for treating LDL cholesterol, they aren’t the only option. Innovative PCSK9 inhibitors have been found effective, especially for certain patient groups such as those with a family history of high cholesterol. One review went so far as saying, “the advent of therapeutic PCSK9 inhibition heralds a change to the future of lipid management.”
Despite their promise, PCSK9 access has been blocked around the EU. Germany, France, Italy and Spain, among other markets, have limited access, some blaming cost.
But now that research has shown that relying on statins alone could leave half of patients unnecessarily exposed to stroke, heart attack or death from a preventable cardiovascular disease event? Perhaps policymakers will reconsider the need for broad access and personalized treatment plans.