The new BMJ Rapid Recommendations addressed the following question: should we add another lipid-lowering drug in adults with low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) over 1.8 mmol/L using a maximal dose of statins or intolerant to statins?1 Why is this question important? Both proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibitors and ezetimibe have been shown to reduce LDL-C by approximately 60% and approximately 20%, respectively, and correspondingly may reduce major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE), including all-cause death, cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke. However, the benefit of ezetimibe is small and PCSK9 inhibitors are very costly. Both drugs have adverse effects which must be considered when balancing recommendations to achieve maximal benefit and minimal harm.
Current guidelines recommend differing LDL-C treatment targets. Examples of thresholds include the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) guidelines, which recommend an LDL-C target of 1.4 mmol/L for patients at very high cardiovascular risk,2 and the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association (AHA/ACC) guidelines, which set a less aggressive LDL-C target of 1.8 mmol/L.3
The new guideline is a collaborative initiative from the MAGIC Evidence Ecosystem Foundation (www.magicproject.org) and the BMJ. The authors performed a systematic review and network meta-analysis of 14 trials, with 83 660 participants, to define the absolute incremental beneficial effects of ezetimibe and PCSK9 inhibitors to statins, and this is published simultaneously in the BMJ.4
The guideline represents a shift from the traditional focus on lipid level goals to a focus on reducing an individual’s absolute cardiovascular risk. Few other guidelines specifically do this.5 To apply these recommendations, clinicians need to calculate patients’ individual absolute cardiovascular risks using risk calculators applicable to specific geographical regions.
Guideline panel and patient involvement
The multiprofessional panel included three cardiologists, nine general practitioners (GPs), eight general internists, one endocrinologist, one geriatrician, one epidemiologist, one oncologist and three patient partners, who …