Net benefit of statins for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in people 75 years or older: a benefit–harm balance modeling study

Henock G. Yebyo, Hélène E. Aschmann, Dominik Menges, Cynthia M. Boyd, Milo A. Puhan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: We determined the risk thresholds above which statin use would be more likely to provide a net benefit for people over the age of 75 years without history of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Methods: An exponential model was used to estimate the differences in expected benefit and harms in people treated with statins over a 10-year horizon versus not treated. The analysis was repeated 100,000 times to consider the statistical uncertainty and produce a distribution of the benefit–harm balance index from which we determined the 10-year CVD risk threshold where benefits outweighed the harms. We considered treatment estimates from trials and observational studies, baseline risks, patient preferences, and competing risks of non-CVD death, and statistical uncertainty. Results: Based on average preferences, statins were more likely to provide a net benefit at a 10-year CVD risk of 24% and 25% for men aged 75–79 years and 80–84 years, respectively, and 21% for women in both age groups. However, these thresholds varied significantly depending on differences in individual patient preferences for the statin-related outcomes, with interquartile ranges of 21–33% and 23–36% for men aged 75–79 years and 80–84 years, respectively, as well as 20–32% and 21–32% for women aged 75–79 years and 80–84 years, respectively. Conclusions: Statins would more likely provide a net benefit for primary prevention in older people taking the average preferences if their CVD risk is well above 20%. However, the thresholds could be much higher or lower depending on preferences of individual patients, which suggests more emphasis should be placed on individual-based decision-making, instead of recommending statins for everyone based on a single or a small number of thresholds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTherapeutic Advances in Chronic Disease
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019



  • benefit–harm balance
  • cardiovascular disease risk threshold
  • lipid-lowering drugs
  • primary CVD prevention
  • statins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)

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