Statin Trials, Cardiovascular Events, and Coronary Artery Calcification: Implications for a Trial-Based Approach to Statin Therapy in MESA

Martin Bødtker Mortensen, Erling Falk, Dong Li, Khurram Nasir, Michael J. Blaha, Veit Sandfort, Carlos Jose Rodriguez, Pamela Ouyang, Matthew Budoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study sought to determine whether coronary artery calcium (CAC) could be used to optimize statin allocation among individuals for whom trial-based evidence supports efficacy of statin therapy. Background: Recently, allocation of statins was proposed for primary prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) based on proven efficacy from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of statin therapy, a so-called trial-based approach. Methods: The study used data from MESA (Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis) with 5,600 men and women, 45 to 84 years of age, and free of clinical ASCVD, lipid-lowering therapy, or missing information for risk factors at baseline examination. Results: During 10 years’ follow-up, 354 ASCVD and 219 hard coronary heart disease (CHD) events occurred. Based on enrollment criteria for 7 RCTs of statin therapy in primary prevention, 73% of MESA participants (91% of those >55 years of age) were eligible for statin therapy according to a trial-based approach. Among those individuals, CAC = 0 was common (44%) and was associated with low rates of ASCVD and CHD (3.9 and 1.7, respectively, per 1,000 person-years). There was a graded increase in event rates with increasing CAC score, and in individuals with CAC >100 (27% of participants) the rates of ASCVD and CHD were 18.9 and 12.7, respectively. Consequently, the estimated number needed to treat (NNT) in 10 years to prevent 1 event varied greatly according to CAC score. For ASCVD events, the NNT was 87 for CAC = 0 and 19 for CAC >100. For CHD events, the NNT was 197 for CAC = 0 and 28 for CAC >100. Conclusions: Most MESA participants qualified for trial-based primary prevention with statins. Among the individuals for whom trial-based evidence supports efficacy of statin therapy, CAC = 0 and CAC >100 were common and associated with low and high cardiovascular risks, respectively. This information may guide shared decision making aimed at targeting evidence-based statins to those who are likely to benefit the most.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-230
Number of pages10
JournalJACC: Cardiovascular Imaging
Issue number2P1
StatePublished - Feb 2018



  • cardiovascular disease
  • guideline
  • lipoproteins
  • primary prevention
  • statin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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