A new study is claiming that more than 11 million older Americans may be newly eligible for statin therapy if findings from the recently-published JUPITER trial of AstraZeneca’s cholesterol drug Crestor are adopted into clinical practice guidelines.

The analysis, is published online in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes used data from the 1999–2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers found that 33.5 million older Americans (men aged 50 and older and women aged 60 plus) are currently taking a statin (24.4%). They have risks that would indicate a need for statin therapy based on current guidelines but do not take a statin (33.5%).

The study estimated that an additional 19.2% of older adults could be considered eligible for statin therapy based on their matching the inclusion criteria used in JUPITER, the data from which showed that Crestor (rosuvastatin) dramatically cut deaths, heart attacks and strokes in patients who had healthy cholesterol levels but high levels of C-reactive protein which is associated with heart disease.

The study’s lead author, Erica Spatz of Yale University, said that “based on our analysis, more than 44.7 million older Americans might have an indication for statin therapy when you consider those who already meet current guidelines..and those who might be eligible based on the criteria proposed in JUPITER”. She added that “that’s nearly 80% of this segment of the population who could potentially be recommended a statin therapy if those criteria were adopted into guidelines.”

American Heart Association president Timothy Gardner said that “certainly the JUPITER findings were intriguing and they will be evaluated as any future revisions are considered for treatment guidelines for reducing cardiovascular risk.” He added that this additional analysis provides useful information about how many individuals would meet the JUPITER inclusion criteria but “a more in-depth study of further implications, including cost-analysis, will be critical in future decision-making processes about preventive measures for the population as a whole”.

He concluded by saying that “clearly, as a nation, we are not adequately reducing the risk of those who, even under current guidelines, already need statin treatment but are not receiving it. Determining the most effective ways to do that is paramount.”