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New guidelines could have more people on statins

Lipitor, a statin drug

Don’t focus on your cholesterol numbers. That’s the message being sent by the American College of Cardiology, which announced new guidelines yesterday, on cardiovascular-disease prevention.

For nearly 30 years, doctors have looked to LDL cholesterol levels -- that’s the “bad” cholesterol -- to determine your risk of heart disease. The rule of thumb that doctors applied to nearly everybody was keep your cholesterol level under 100. Now the guidelines say that number should be one of many things doctors should consider, said Robert Goldberg with the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.

It’s really a shift towards more individualized treatment away from the number and more towards certain risk factors those things are better guides,” he said. 

Things like: age or whether they have diabetes. Now if you’re in that group doctors may suggest that you take the cholesterol-reducing drugs known as statins, even if your cholesterol level is under 100.

Also, it’s kind of interesting of timing that we’re now going to probably double the number of people taking statins just after they’ve gone off patent,” said Erik Gordon, with University of Michigan’s School of Business.

Since most of those statins are now generic, Gordon says, this is lucky break for consumers because generic drugs are whole lot cheaper.

About the author

Queena Kim covers technology for Marketplace. She lives in the Bay Area.
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