Screening families with a history of high cholesterol is most cost effective way to cut heart deaths

May 30, 2002

Screening relatives of people with high cholesterol levels is the most cost effective way to reduce deaths from coronary heart disease, yet no recommended screening strategy currently exists in the United Kingdom , according to researchers in this week's BMJ.

High cholesterol which runs in families is known as familial hypercholesterolaemia. About 110,000 people in the UK are thought to have the condition, and at least 75% of them are undiagnosed. Without identification and treatment, over half of these people will have a fatal or non-fatal coronary heart disease event by the age of 50 (men) or 60 (women).

Using computer modelling, the research team assessed the costs and benefits of different screening strategies in the UK. They found that screening family members of people with familial hypercholesterolaemia was the most cost effective way of detecting cases across the whole population for all age groups.

This represents good value for money compared with common medical interventions, say the authors. As no recommended screening strategy currently exists for this condition in the UK, they suggest that pilot evaluation programmes should be conducted.
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BMJ

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