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      Patterns and trends of potentially inappropriate high-density lipoprotein cholesterol testing in Australian adults at high risk of cardiovascular disease from 2008 to 2014: analysis of linked individual patient data from the Australian Medicare Benefits Schedule and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

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          We examine the extent to which the adult Australian population on lipid-lowering medications receives the level of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) testing recommended by national guidelines.


          We analysed records from 7 years (2008–2014) of the 10% publicly available sample of deidentified, individual level, linked Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) electronic databases of Australia.


          The PBS data were used to identify individuals on stable prescriptions of lipid-lowering treatment. The MBS data were used to estimate the annual frequency of HDL-C testing. We developed a methodology to address the issue of ‘episode coning’ in the MBS data, which causes an undercounting of pathology tests. We used a published figure on the proportion of unreported HDL-C tests to correct for the undercounting and estimate the probability that an HDL-C test was performed. We judged appropriateness of testing frequency by comparing the HDL-C testing rate to guidelines’ recommendations of annual testing for people at high risk for cardiovascular disease.


          We estimated that approximately 49% of the population on stable lipid-lowering treatment did not receive any HDL-C test in a given year. We also found that approximately 19% of the same population received two or more HDL-C tests within the year. These levels of underutilisation and overutilisation have been changing at an average rate of 2% and −4% a year, respectively, since 2009. The yearly expenditure associated with test overutilisation was approximately $A4.3 million during the study period, while the cost averted because of test underutilisation was approximately $A11.3 million a year.


          We found that approximately half of Australians on stable lipid-lowering treatment may be having fewer HDL-C testing than recommended by national guidelines, while nearly one-fifth are having more tests than recommended.

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          Global, regional, and national disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) for 315 diseases and injuries and healthy life expectancy (HALE), 1990–2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015

          Summary Background Healthy life expectancy (HALE) and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) provide summary measures of health across geographies and time that can inform assessments of epidemiological patterns and health system performance, help to prioritise investments in research and development, and monitor progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We aimed to provide updated HALE and DALYs for geographies worldwide and evaluate how disease burden changes with development. Methods We used results from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2015 (GBD 2015) for all-cause mortality, cause-specific mortality, and non-fatal disease burden to derive HALE and DALYs by sex for 195 countries and territories from 1990 to 2015. We calculated DALYs by summing years of life lost (YLLs) and years of life lived with disability (YLDs) for each geography, age group, sex, and year. We estimated HALE using the Sullivan method, which draws from age-specific death rates and YLDs per capita. We then assessed how observed levels of DALYs and HALE differed from expected trends calculated with the Socio-demographic Index (SDI), a composite indicator constructed from measures of income per capita, average years of schooling, and total fertility rate. Findings Total global DALYs remained largely unchanged from 1990 to 2015, with decreases in communicable, neonatal, maternal, and nutritional (Group 1) disease DALYs offset by increased DALYs due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Much of this epidemiological transition was caused by changes in population growth and ageing, but it was accelerated by widespread improvements in SDI that also correlated strongly with the increasing importance of NCDs. Both total DALYs and age-standardised DALY rates due to most Group 1 causes significantly decreased by 2015, and although total burden climbed for the majority of NCDs, age-standardised DALY rates due to NCDs declined. Nonetheless, age-standardised DALY rates due to several high-burden NCDs (including osteoarthritis, drug use disorders, depression, diabetes, congenital birth defects, and skin, oral, and sense organ diseases) either increased or remained unchanged, leading to increases in their relative ranking in many geographies. From 2005 to 2015, HALE at birth increased by an average of 2·9 years (95% uncertainty interval 2·9–3·0) for men and 3·5 years (3·4–3·7) for women, while HALE at age 65 years improved by 0·85 years (0·78–0·92) and 1·2 years (1·1–1·3), respectively. Rising SDI was associated with consistently higher HALE and a somewhat smaller proportion of life spent with functional health loss; however, rising SDI was related to increases in total disability. Many countries and territories in central America and eastern sub-Saharan Africa had increasingly lower rates of disease burden than expected given their SDI. At the same time, a subset of geographies recorded a growing gap between observed and expected levels of DALYs, a trend driven mainly by rising burden due to war, interpersonal violence, and various NCDs. Interpretation Health is improving globally, but this means more populations are spending more time with functional health loss, an absolute expansion of morbidity. The proportion of life spent in ill health decreases somewhat with increasing SDI, a relative compression of morbidity, which supports continued efforts to elevate personal income, improve education, and limit fertility. Our analysis of DALYs and HALE and their relationship to SDI represents a robust framework on which to benchmark geography-specific health performance and SDG progress. Country-specific drivers of disease burden, particularly for causes with higher-than-expected DALYs, should inform financial and research investments, prevention efforts, health policies, and health system improvement initiatives for all countries along the development continuum. Funding Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
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            Blood cholesterol and vascular mortality by age, sex, and blood pressure: a meta-analysis of individual data from 61 prospective studies with 55,000 vascular deaths.

            Age, sex, and blood pressure could modify the associations of total cholesterol (and its main two fractions, HDL and LDL cholesterol) with vascular mortality. This meta-analysis combined prospective studies of vascular mortality that recorded both blood pressure and total cholesterol at baseline, to determine the joint relevance of these two risk factors. Information was obtained from 61 prospective observational studies, mostly in western Europe or North America, consisting of almost 900,000 adults without previous disease and with baseline measurements of total cholesterol and blood pressure. During nearly 12 million person years at risk between the ages of 40 and 89 years, there were more than 55,000 vascular deaths (34,000 ischaemic heart disease [IHD], 12,000 stroke, 10,000 other). Information about HDL cholesterol was available for 150,000 participants, among whom there were 5000 vascular deaths (3000 IHD, 1000 stroke, 1000 other). Reported associations are with usual cholesterol levels (ie, corrected for the regression dilution bias). 1 mmol/L lower total cholesterol was associated with about a half (hazard ratio 0.44 [95% CI 0.42-0.48]), a third (0.66 [0.65-0.68]), and a sixth (0.83 [0.81-0.85]) lower IHD mortality in both sexes at ages 40-49, 50-69, and 70-89 years, respectively, throughout the main range of cholesterol in most developed countries, with no apparent threshold. The proportional risk reduction decreased with increasing blood pressure, since the absolute effects of cholesterol and blood pressure were approximately additive. Of various simple indices involving HDL cholesterol, the ratio total/HDL cholesterol was the strongest predictor of IHD mortality (40% more informative than non-HDL cholesterol and more than twice as informative as total cholesterol). Total cholesterol was weakly positively related to ischaemic and total stroke mortality in early middle age (40-59 years), but this finding could be largely or wholly accounted for by the association of cholesterol with blood pressure. Moreover, a positive relation was seen only in middle age and only in those with below-average blood pressure; at older ages (70-89 years) and, particularly, for those with systolic blood pressure over about 145 mm Hg, total cholesterol was negatively related to haemorrhagic and total stroke mortality. The results for other vascular mortality were intermediate between those for IHD and stroke. Total cholesterol was positively associated with IHD mortality in both middle and old age and at all blood pressure levels. The absence of an independent positive association of cholesterol with stroke mortality, especially at older ages or higher blood pressures, is unexplained, and invites further research. Nevertheless, there is conclusive evidence from randomised trials that statins substantially reduce not only coronary event rates but also total stroke rates in patients with a wide range of ages and blood pressures.
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              Interpretation of the evidence for the efficacy and safety of statin therapy.

              This Review is intended to help clinicians, patients, and the public make informed decisions about statin therapy for the prevention of heart attacks and strokes. It explains how the evidence that is available from randomised controlled trials yields reliable information about both the efficacy and safety of statin therapy. In addition, it discusses how claims that statins commonly cause adverse effects reflect a failure to recognise the limitations of other sources of evidence about the effects of treatment. Large-scale evidence from randomised trials shows that statin therapy reduces the risk of major vascular events (ie, coronary deaths or myocardial infarctions, strokes, and coronary revascularisation procedures) by about one-quarter for each mmol/L reduction in LDL cholesterol during each year (after the first) that it continues to be taken. The absolute benefits of statin therapy depend on an individual's absolute risk of occlusive vascular events and the absolute reduction in LDL cholesterol that is achieved. For example, lowering LDL cholesterol by 2 mmol/L (77 mg/dL) with an effective low-cost statin regimen (eg, atorvastatin 40 mg daily, costing about £2 per month) for 5 years in 10 000 patients would typically prevent major vascular events from occurring in about 1000 patients (ie, 10% absolute benefit) with pre-existing occlusive vascular disease (secondary prevention) and in 500 patients (ie, 5% absolute benefit) who are at increased risk but have not yet had a vascular event (primary prevention). Statin therapy has been shown to reduce vascular disease risk during each year it continues to be taken, so larger absolute benefits would accrue with more prolonged therapy, and these benefits persist long term. The only serious adverse events that have been shown to be caused by long-term statin therapy-ie, adverse effects of the statin-are myopathy (defined as muscle pain or weakness combined with large increases in blood concentrations of creatine kinase), new-onset diabetes mellitus, and, probably, haemorrhagic stroke. Typically, treatment of 10 000 patients for 5 years with an effective regimen (eg, atorvastatin 40 mg daily) would cause about 5 cases of myopathy (one of which might progress, if the statin therapy is not stopped, to the more severe condition of rhabdomyolysis), 50-100 new cases of diabetes, and 5-10 haemorrhagic strokes. However, any adverse impact of these side-effects on major vascular events has already been taken into account in the estimates of the absolute benefits. Statin therapy may cause symptomatic adverse events (eg, muscle pain or weakness) in up to about 50-100 patients (ie, 0·5-1·0% absolute harm) per 10 000 treated for 5 years. However, placebo-controlled randomised trials have shown definitively that almost all of the symptomatic adverse events that are attributed to statin therapy in routine practice are not actually caused by it (ie, they represent misattribution). The large-scale evidence available from randomised trials also indicates that it is unlikely that large absolute excesses in other serious adverse events still await discovery. Consequently, any further findings that emerge about the effects of statin therapy would not be expected to alter materially the balance of benefits and harms. It is, therefore, of concern that exaggerated claims about side-effect rates with statin therapy may be responsible for its under-use among individuals at increased risk of cardiovascular events. For, whereas the rare cases of myopathy and any muscle-related symptoms that are attributed to statin therapy generally resolve rapidly when treatment is stopped, the heart attacks or strokes that may occur if statin therapy is stopped unnecessarily can be devastating.

                Author and article information

                BMJ Open
                BMJ Open
                BMJ Open
                BMJ Publishing Group (BMA House, Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9JR )
                8 March 2018
                : 8
                : 3
                [1 ] departmentTranslational Health Research Institute , Western Sydney University , Penrith, New South Wales, Australia
                [2 ] Capital Markets CRC , Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
                [3 ] departmentSchool of Nursing and Midwifery , Western Sydney University , Penrith, New South Wales, Australia
                [4 ] departmentSchool of Medicine , University of Adelaide , Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
                [5 ] departmentSchool of Public Health , University of Sydney , Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
                Author notes
                [Correspondence to ] Professor Federico Girosi; f.girosi@
                © Article author(s) (or their employer(s) unless otherwise stated in the text of the article) 2018. All rights reserved. No commercial use is permitted unless otherwise expressly granted.

                This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:

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                primary care, chemical pathology, cardiac epidemiology, epidemiology


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