Evaluating the Association between Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Reduction and Relative and Absolute Effects of Statin Treatment: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Paula Byrne*, Maryanne Demasi, Mark Jones, Susan M. Smith, Kirsty K. O'Brien, Robert Dubroff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Importance: The association between statin-induced reduction in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels and the absolute risk reduction of individual, rather than composite, outcomes, such as all-cause mortality, myocardial infarction, or stroke, is unclear. 

Objective: To assess the association between absolute reductions in LDL-C levels with treatment with statin therapy and all-cause mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke to facilitate shared decision-making between clinicians and patients and inform clinical guidelines and policy. 

Data Sources: PubMed and Embase were searched to identify eligible trials from January 1987 to June 2021. 

Study Selection: Large randomized clinical trials that examined the effectiveness of statins in reducing total mortality and cardiovascular outcomes with a planned duration of 2 or more years and that reported absolute changes in LDL-C levels. Interventions were treatment with statins (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors) vs placebo or usual care. Participants were men and women older than 18 years. 

Data Extraction and Synthesis: Three independent reviewers extracted data and/or assessed the methodological quality and certainty of the evidence using the risk of bias 2 tool and Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation. Any differences in opinion were resolved by consensus. Meta-analyses and a meta-regression were undertaken. 

Main Outcomes and Measures: Primary outcome: all-cause mortality. Secondary outcomes: myocardial infarction, stroke. 

Findings: Twenty-one trials were included in the analysis. Meta-analyses showed reductions in the absolute risk of 0.8% (95% CI, 0.4%-1.2%) for all-cause mortality, 1.3% (95% CI, 0.9%-1.7%) for myocardial infarction, and 0.4% (95% CI, 0.2%-0.6%) for stroke in those randomized to treatment with statins, with associated relative risk reductions of 9% (95% CI, 5%-14%), 29% (95% CI, 22%-34%), and 14% (95% CI, 5%-22%) respectively. A meta-regression exploring the potential mediating association of the magnitude of statin-induced LDL-C reduction with outcomes was inconclusive. 

Conclusions and Relevance: The results of this meta-analysis suggest that the absolute risk reductions of treatment with statins in terms of all-cause mortality, myocardial infarction, and stroke are modest compared with the relative risk reductions, and the presence of significant heterogeneity reduces the certainty of the evidence. A conclusive association between absolute reductions in LDL-C levels and individual clinical outcomes was not established, and these findings underscore the importance of discussing absolute risk reductions when making informed clinical decisions with individual patients..

Original languageEnglish
JournalJAMA Internal Medicine
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Mar 2022

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