Practice Alert

USPSTF issues draft guidance on statins for primary CVD prevention

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On February 22, the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) posted draft recommendations on the use of statins as a method of primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD).1 This is an update to their 2016 recommendations and reaffirms the guidance published at that time.

What’s recommended. The recommendations have 3 parts and are intended for adults with no evidence or previous diagnosis of CVD.

  • Statins should be prescribed for those who meet 3 criteria: (1) are ages 40 through 75 years; (2) have 1 or more CVD risk factors (high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, diabetes, tobacco use); and (3) have a calculated 10-year risk of a CVD event of 10% or greater. (The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association ASCVD Risk Calculator, recommended by the USPSTF, can be found at This is a “B” recommendation.1
  • Selectively offer a statin, based on a discussion of benefits and risks and patient preferences, to those who meet criteria 1 and 2 above but who have a calculated CVD risk of 7.5% to 10%. This is a “C” recommendation.1
  • For those ages 76 years and older, there is insufficient evidence to assess benefits and harms of statin use. The USPSTF therefore issued an “I” statement for this group.1

What to prescribe. The USPSTF feels that moderate-intensity statin therapy is a reasonable approach for most people who use statins for primary CVD prevention. This would equate to atorvastatin 10 mg, pravastatin 40 mg, or simvastatin 20 to 40 mg daily.1

A few notes on the evidence. Data from 22 studies were included in the evidence review upon which the recommendations are based. The mean duration of follow-up was 3 years. The number needed to treat to prevent 1 stroke was about 256; to prevent 1 myocardial infarction, 112; and to prevent all CVD events, 78.2

What others recommend. These recommendations are mostly consistent with those of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, except that those organizations recommend initiating statins in all those with a 10-year CVD risk ≥ 7.5%.1

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