Statins to be more widely available
Published on 12 February 2014 02:00 PM
Millions more people could be prescribed statins in a bid to protect them against heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.
Draft guidance submitted to the NHS by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommends cutting the threshold in half for when doctors should consider prescribing the cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the biggest killers in the UK - and this is something the guidance intends to address.
Statins are taken by as many as 7 million people in the UK
Doctors currently offer statins to people with a 20% risk of developing cardiovascular disease within 10 years, but under the proposals this would be reduced to include all people with a 10% risk of developing cardiovascular disease within 10 years.
It must be stressed, however, that the guidance is still subject to consultation, meaning nothing is set in stone so far.
Statins are taken by as many as 7 million people in the UK at present, although experts from Oxford University predict up to 5 million more may have them prescribed if the proposals come to fruition.
‘This remains a choice for the patient, it's not mandatory'
Rory Collins, professor of medicine at the institution, claims there is evidence to suggest that even very low-risk patients benefit from statins.
'People say you are medicalising the population by recommending statin use at these lower levels,' he said.
'That's complete nonsense. This remains a choice for the patient, it's not mandatory. If they are at high risk then doctors will be saying to patients they will get a big benefit, but at lower levels the benefits will be smaller and the patient has the choice
High rates of cholesterol can lead to hardening of the arteries
'Before, if the patient had lower levels of risk - despite it being cost-effective for them to get the treatment - they would not have had that choice.'
Having high rates of cholesterol in the blood is potentially dangerous as it can lead to hardening and narrowing of the arteries, otherwise known as atherosclerosis.
This increases the risk of more serious, and possibly life-threatening, conditions, such as heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
Copyright Press Association 2014