[Skip to Content]
[Skip to Content Landing]
Views 2,047
Citations 0
Original Investigation
Less Is More
November 16, 2020

Evaluation of Time to Benefit of Statins for the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Events in Adults Aged 50 to 75 Years: A Meta-analysis

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology, School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego
  • 2Geriatrics, Palliative and Extended Care Service Line, San Francisco VA (Veterans Affairs) Health Care System, San Francisco, California
  • 3Division of Geriatrics, School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
  • 4Northern California Institute for Research and Education, San Francisco
  • 5Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • 6Department of General Medicine and Primary Care, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 7Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, School of Medicine, John Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 8New England GRECC (Geriatrics Research, Education and Clinical Center), VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 9Division of Aging, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA Intern Med. Published online November 16, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.6084
Key Points

Question  What is the time to benefit of statin therapy for primary prevention of cardiovascular events in adults aged 50 to 75 years?

Findings  In this survival meta-analysis of 8 trials randomizing 65 383 adults, 2.5 (95% CI, 1.7-3.4) years were needed to avoid 1 cardiovascular event for 100 patients treated with a statin.

Meaning  These findings suggest that statin medications for the primary prevention of cardiovascular events may reduce cardiac events for some adults aged 50 to 75 years with a life expectancy of at least 2.5 years; no data suggest a mortality benefit.


Importance  Guidelines recommend targeting preventive interventions toward older adults whose life expectancy is greater than the intervention’s time to benefit (TTB). The TTB for statin therapy is unknown.

Objective  To conduct a survival meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials of statins to determine the TTB for prevention of a first major adverse cardiovascular event (MACE) in adults aged 50 to 75 years.

Data Sources  Studies were identified from previously published systematic reviews (Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and US Preventive Services Task Force) and a search of MEDLINE and Google Scholar for subsequently published studies until February 1, 2020.

Study Selection  Randomized clinical trials of statins for primary prevention focusing on older adults (mean age >55 years).

Data Extraction and Synthesis  Two authors independently abstracted survival data for the control and intervention groups. Weibull survival curves were fit, and a random-effects model was used to estimate pooled absolute risk reductions (ARRs) between control and intervention groups each year. Markov chain Monte Carlo methods were applied to determine time to ARR thresholds.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The primary outcome was time to ARR thresholds (0.002, 0.005, and 0.010) for a first MACE, as defined by each trial. There were broad similarities in the definition of MACE across trials, with all trials including myocardial infarction and cardiovascular mortality.

Results  Eight trials randomizing 65 383 adults (66.3% men) were identified. The mean age ranged from 55 to 69 years old and the mean length of follow-up ranged from 2 to 6 years. Only 1 of 8 studies showed that statins decreased all-cause mortality. The meta-analysis results suggested that 2.5 (95% CI, 1.7-3.4) years were needed to avoid 1 MACE for 100 patients treated with a statin. To prevent 1 MACE for 200 patients treated (ARR = 0.005), the TTB was 1.3 (95% CI, 1.0-1.7) years, whereas the TTB to avoid 1 MACE for 500 patients treated (ARR = 0.002) was 0.8 (95% CI, 0.5-1.0) years.

Conclusions and Relevance  These findings suggest that treating 100 adults (aged 50-75 years) without known cardiovascular disease with a statin for 2.5 years prevented 1 MACE in 1 adult. Statins may help to prevent a first MACE in adults aged 50 to 75 years old if they have a life expectancy of at least 2.5 years. There is no evidence of a mortality benefit.

Limit 200 characters
Limit 25 characters
Conflicts of Interest Disclosure

Identify all potential conflicts of interest that might be relevant to your comment.

Conflicts of interest comprise financial interests, activities, and relationships within the past 3 years including but not limited to employment, affiliation, grants or funding, consultancies, honoraria or payment, speaker's bureaus, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, donation of medical equipment, or patents planned, pending, or issued.

Err on the side of full disclosure.

If you have no conflicts of interest, check "No potential conflicts of interest" in the box below. The information will be posted with your response.

Not all submitted comments are published. Please see our commenting policy for details.

Limit 140 characters
Limit 3600 characters or approximately 600 words