To predict the consequences of cholesterol screening among elderly Americans who do not have symptoms of heart disease, we explore the cost implications of a cholesterol screening program, evaluate evidence linking hypercholesterolemia to coronary heart disease and mortality in the elderly, and describe the likely effects of therapy of hypercholesterolemia. According to our calculations, if all Americans 65 years of age and older adhered to a cholesterol screening program similar to the one proposed by the National Cholesterol Education Program, minimum annual expenditures for screening and treatment would be between $1.6 billion and $16.8 billion, depending on the effectiveness of diet and the cost of the medications used to treat hypercholesterolemia. There is no direct evidence that this program would lessen overall morbidity or extend the lives of elderly Americans.
(Arch Intern Med. 1991;151:1089-1095)