Millions more to be eligible for cholesterol-boosting statins

statinsThe threshold for those eligible to take cholesterol-lowering statins has been drastically cut by medicines regulator the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), meaning millions more adults in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will now be offered statins by doctors.

Under controversial guidelines from the watchdog, most men aged over 60 and women over 65 will now be advised to take statins such as Atorvastatin, Pravastatin or Rosuvastatin. This will be the case even if they are only at a one in 10 risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The current threshold is 20%.

NICE say the recommendation to take statins to an extra 4.5 million adults is necessary to avoid “a tragedy waiting to happen” by decreasing the numbers of people suffering with heart attacks and strokes.

Around 12.5 million people are currently eligible for the drugs, and the NHS could see costs of an extra £52 million annually from the extra 4.5 million patients being offered statin medication. Due to decreasing costs for the drugs, the total NHS bill for statins would actually still be less than what it was in 2012.

Speaking yesterday, the NICE guidance panel argued the recommendations were devised from the “biggest ever clinical trial” and that 50,000 lives could be saved each year if those now eligible regularly took statins.

However, that indeed could be one major stumbling block – getting patients to keep taking their treatment. NICE admit that statin uptake only stands at around 60% usually, and that benefits to be gained are more likely to be 4,000 lives saved each year in addition to 22,000 strokes and heart attacks averted.

One in three deaths in the UK are the result of cardiovascular disease. It is for this reason why statins remain the most prescribed type of medication on the NHS, with Medical Specialists™ Pharmacy also seeing massive amounts of patients requesting statins to help lower their ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, whilst raising the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol!

Although some doctors have claimed the new guidelines for statins are primarily based on studies funded by the pharmaceutical industry, this has been quickly refuted by NICE.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, blasted that such claims were “ludicrous”.

“Nobody gets onto our guideline groups if they have any significant vested interest, especially a financial interest,” he commented. “Statins are safe and effective and it is a good deal for more people to have access to them under the NHS.”

Professor Peter Weissberg, the medical director at the British Heart Foundation, stressed the importance of positive lifestyle choices in lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. He said: “Doctors will now be able to offer a statin to people at a lower risk, but their prescription is not mandated.

“Just as important is the emphasis on trying lifestyle changes before considering treatments with drugs.”

For example, lifestyle changes hinted at by Professor Weissberg include: quitting smoking, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, consume alcohol only in moderation, manage stress levels better, have a diet rich in fruit and vegetables/limited in trans fats and keep your blood pressure under control.

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