The full content of Annals is available to subscribers

Subscribe/Learn More  >
Ideas and Opinions |

New Studies Do Not Challenge the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Lipid GuidelinesNew Studies Do Not Challenge the ACC/AHA Lipid Guidelines

Timothy P. Hofer, MD, MSc; Jeremy B. Sussman, MD, MSc; and Rodney A. Hayward, MD
[+] Article, Author, and Disclosure Information

This article was published at www.annals.org on 9 February 2016.

From Veterans Affairs Center for Clinical Management Research, Health Services Research and Development Service Center of Innovation, and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Financial Support: Drs. Hofer and Hayward are supported by the Michigan Center for Diabetes Translational Research (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health [P60 DK-20572]). Dr. Sussman is supported by a Veterans Affairs Health Services Research and Development Service Career Development Award.

Disclosures: Disclosures can be viewed at www.acponline.org/authors/icmje/ConflictOfInterestForms.do?msNum=M15-2428.

Requests for Single Reprints: Timothy P. Hofer, MD, MS, Veterans Affairs Center for Clinical Management Research, Institute for Health Policy and Innovation, North Campus Research Complex, Building 16-328W, 2800 Plymouth Road, SPC 2800, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2800; e-mail, thofer@umich.edu.

Current Author Addresses: Drs. Hofer and Sussman: Veterans Affairs Center for Clinical Management Research, Institute for Health Policy and Innovation, North Campus Research Complex, Building 16-328W, 2800 Plymouth Road, SPC 2800, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2800.

Dr. Hayward: Director, National Clinician Scholars Program, Institute for Health Policy and Innovation, North Campus Research Complex, Building 10, Room G016, 2800 Plymouth Road, SPC 2800, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2800.

Author Contributions: Conception and design: T.P. Hofer, J.B. Sussman, R.A. Hayward.

Analysis and interpretation of the data: R.A. Hayward.

Drafting of the article: T.P. Hofer.

Critical revision of the article for important intellectual content: T.P. Hofer, J.B. Sussman, R.A. Hayward.

Final approval of the article: T.P. Hofer, J.B. Sussman, R.A. Hayward.

Statistical expertise: R.A. Hayward.

Ann Intern Med. 2016;164(10):683-684. doi:10.7326/M15-2428
© 2016 American College of Physicians
Text Size: A A A

The 2013 lipid guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association recommend that statin therapy be guided by cardiovascular risk rather than by a specific low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level or target. The authors discuss the guidelines and other recent evidence to support adoption of benefit-based, tailored treatment.

First Page Preview

View Large
First page PDF preview





Citing articles are presented as examples only. In non-demo SCM6 implementation, integration with CrossRef’s "Cited By" API will populate this tab (http://www.crossref.org/citedby.html).


Submit a Comment/Letter
Contintued controversy regarding a tailored or targeted approach to LDL-C
Posted on June 14, 2016
Thomas F. Whayne, Jr, MD, PhD, FACP
Gill Heart Institute; University of Kentucky
Conflict of Interest: None Declared

In their Ideas and Opinions commentary, Hofer et al. offer up more controversy and potential confusion regarding a targeted or tailored reduction of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) as they firmly state that the available new clinical evidence reinforces the importance of cardiovascular (CV) risk and the secondary importance of LDL-C levels (1). Elimination of LDL-C targets was first proposed by Hayward and Krumholz (2). Nevertheless, CV risk benefit from the reduction of LDL-C has been well-established for many years by multiple studies such as ileal bypass, long before consideration of additional pleiotropic effects of statins (3). In a private academic CV consulting practice, it remains quite frequent to see referred high-risk CV patients with no attention paid to LDL-C or the use of a statin. The 2013 American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Guideline advocates a high-dose statin for the high risk CV patient and assessment of risk by cohort equations on a computer (4). This computer assessment is not going to happen when a busy primary care practitioner is facing a full waiting room of patients he or she is late seeing. The secret is to keep it simple. A strategy of LDL-C reduction to a specific target does not interfere with awareness of the complexities of atherosclerosis and our need for increased understanding of these many unknowns (5). An experienced clinician recognizes that each patient requires individualized management. Why not put the issue of an LDL-C target to rest by an acknowledgement that each patient needs a tailored approach based on a clinical assessment of CV risk that includes baseline lipid levels as well as multiple other CV risk factors? From this tailored approach, a target for LDL-C could then be set based on the starting level and the appropriate intensity of statin and other management. Therefore, each patient should have a plan tailored to their individual clinical status with a different LDL-C target for each patient. Too much has been made of what should be a simple plan that is tailored to each patient situation, guided by a target for LDL-C. There is ample evidenced-based medicine to support this proposal to simplify controversy, put the issue to rest, and avoid confusion that some major new approach is indicated. Unfortunately, the lipid hypothesis is still not adequately accepted and followed by many practitioners. A direct simple approach is more likely to improve this unfortunate reality.

Thomas F. Whayne, Jr, MD, PhD, FACP
Professor of Medicine (Cardiology)
Gill Heart Institute
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40536-1200

1. Hofer TP, Sussman JB, Hayward RA. New Studies Do Not Challenge the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Lipid Guidelines. Ann Intern Med. 2016;164(10):683-4.
2. Hayward RA, Krumholz HM. Three Reasons to Abandon Low-Density Lipoprotein Targets: An Open Letter to the Adult Treatment Panel IV of the National Institutes of Health. Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2012;5(1):2-5.
3. Buchwald H, Varco RL, Boen JR, Williams SE, Hansen BJ, Campos CT, et al. Effective lipid modification by partial ileal bypass reduced long-term coronary heart disease mortality and morbidity: five-year posttrial follow-up report from the POSCH. Program on the Surgical Control of the Hyperlipidemias. Arch Intern Med. 1998;158(11):1253-61.
4. Stone NJ, Robinson JG, Lichtenstein AH, Bairey Merz CN, Blum CB, Eckel RH, et al. 2013 ACC/AHA guideline on the treatment of blood cholesterol to reduce atherosclerotic cardiovascular risk in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;63(25 Pt B):2889-934.
5. Whayne TF, Jr. Assessment of low-density lipoprotein targets. Angiology. 2013;64(6):411-
Author's Response
Posted on July 22, 2016
Timothy P. Hofer, MD, MSc, Rodney A. Hayward, MD
University of Michigan
Conflict of Interest: None Declared
Dr. Whayne reiterates some common concerns about the new ACC/AHA guidelines, namely that they somehow undermine the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) hypothesis, will cause practitioners to undertreat high risk patients and will take too much time relative to a treat-to-target approach for primary care practitioners (PCPs). Although interestingly, he goes on to suggest what sounds like a potentially even more complex approach whereby PCPs should have a “plan tailored to [each patient’s] individual clinical status with a different LDL-C target for each patient”.

We clearly stated that the evidence we cited supporting the benefit based treatment approach (BTT) was based on assuming that LDL is the sole mechanism of statin’s cardiovascular disease (CVD) reduction. The ACC/AHA guidelines do not undermine or ignore the LDL hypothesis but reflect accumulating evidence that, even accepting the LDL hypothesis, overall CVD risk remains the most important factor in estimating a patient’s absolute risk reduction from LDL reduction and a BTT approach will save more lives than a treat to target approach.(1)

As two primary care providers with over 50 combined years in practice, we can say that far from making life more complicated for PCPs, dropping LDL targets provides substantial simplification of work for PCPs in terms of monitoring LDL and adjusting statin doses. Calculating CVD risk has been recommended by all lipid guidelines since ATP III so hardly can be said to be new additional work imposed by the ACC/AHA guidelines. PCPs also need to assess CVD risk to follow Aspirin primary prevention guidelines. Cardiovascular risk assessment is also equally important for making optimal decision regarding blood pressure treatment (2). Furthermore, given that cardivovascular risk was an entry criteria for the recent SPRINT trial(3), it is almost certain to be in any subsequent updates of hypertension treatment guidelines. Primary care practitioners have more than enough reasons to calculate the cardiovascular risk of their patients and it can then be used across multiple decision tasks in primary care, simplifying their work rather than complicating it and improving their patients outcomes.

Finally, based once again on the specific arguments and evidence we presented in our article, we respectfully disagree with Dr. Whayne’s statement without reference that “[t]here is ample evidenced-based medicine to support” a treat to target approach.

Timothy P. Hofer, MD and Rodney A. Hayward, MD

1. Hayward RA, Krumholz HM, Zulman DM, Timbie JW, Vijan S. Optimizing statin treatment for primary prevention of coronary artery disease. Ann Intern Med. 2010;152:69-77. [PMID: 20083825]
2. Sussman J, Vijan S, Hayward R. Using benefit-based tailored treatment to improve the use of antihypertensive medications. Circulation 2013 Nov;128(21):2309–2317. PMID: 24190955 PMCID: PMC4026201
3. SPRINT Research Group, Wright JT, Williamson JD, Whelton PK, Snyder JK, Sink KM, Rocco MV, Reboussin DM, Rahman M, Oparil S, Lewis CE, Kimmel PL, Johnson KC, Goff DC, Fine LJ, Cutler JA, Cushman WC, Cheung AK, Ambrosius WT. A Randomized Trial of Intensive versus Standard Blood-Pressure Control. N. Engl. J. Med. 2015 Nov;373(22):2103–2116. PMID: 26551272 PMCID: PMC4689591

Submit a Comment/Letter

Summary for Patients

Clinical Slide Sets

Terms of Use

The In the Clinic® slide sets are owned and copyrighted by the American College of Physicians (ACP). All text, graphics, trademarks, and other intellectual property incorporated into the slide sets remain the sole and exclusive property of the ACP. The slide sets may be used only by the person who downloads or purchases them and only for the purpose of presenting them during not-for-profit educational activities. Users may incorporate the entire slide set or selected individual slides into their own teaching presentations but may not alter the content of the slides in any way or remove the ACP copyright notice. Users may make print copies for use as hand-outs for the audience the user is personally addressing but may not otherwise reproduce or distribute the slides by any means or media, including but not limited to sending them as e-mail attachments, posting them on Internet or Intranet sites, publishing them in meeting proceedings, or making them available for sale or distribution in any unauthorized form, without the express written permission of the ACP. Unauthorized use of the In the Clinic slide sets will constitute copyright infringement.


Buy Now for $32.00

to gain full access to the content and tools.

Want to Subscribe?

Learn more about subscription options

Related Articles
Related Point of Care
Topic Collections
PubMed Articles
Forgot your password?
Enter your username and email address. We'll send you a reminder to the email address on record.