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NHS to offer statins to over a million people

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has issued guidance that calls on the NHS to offer statins to over a million people in an attempt to prevent cardiovascular disease
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance that calls on the NHS to offer statins to over a million people in an attempt to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD).

GPs are being asked to use medical records to identify patients aged between 40 and 75 who are most at risk from CVD, the leading cause of death in England and Wales, which claimed 124,000 lives in 2005. Patients who have a 20 per cent or greater chance of developing CVD within 10 years are to be prescribed statins on the NHS.

This new initiative will cost £28m and an additional 1.5 million people will be prescribed statins on top of the four million patients already receiving them.

Dr John Robson, general practitioner and chair of the guideline development group, said: "This is a major public health initiative and will be a welcome addition to the government's vascular programme as it ensures an efficient and equitable method of targeting treatment to those most likely to benefit."

It is hoped that the screening of more than three million people could prevent over 15,000 heart attacks and strokes every year. Risk factors that could indicate a person's susceptibility to CVD include smoking, raised blood pressure and high cholesterol.

"This guideline will provide much needed clarity for healthcare professionals, many of whom report uncertainty in how to manage blood lipids in patients both with and without pre-existing CVD," said Dr Gillian Leng, NICE deputy chief executive.

Statins have been the focus of positive media attention in 2008 and in February it was revealed that people taking the drugs experienced a reduced risk of cardiac complications. Researchers at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Trousseau in Tours conducted a study involving 3,600 patients that showed that people being prescribed statins were 61 per cent less likely to suffer from atrial fibrillation, abnormal rhythm in the upper heart chambers.

28th May 2008

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