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Statins aren't for everyone—despite the guidelines, doctors warn
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Health advisers have got it seriously wrong when it comes to preventing heart disease, say doctors. Under new guidelines, virtually everyone should start taking cholesterol-lowering statins when they retire—and that should be ringing alarm bells of over-medicalisation.

The Royal College of General Practitioners, which represents 52,000 family doctors in the UK, warns that many people would refuse to take the drug if they knew about all the side effects. "Many don't want to take statins once they have learned all the facts—and GPs will respect patient choice," said Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, the RCGP's chairperson.

And in most cases, taking statins at all may be unnecessary. According to new risk scores released by the UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice), virtually every man over the age of 60 and woman who's 75 is eligible to begin statin treatment. "This should ring alarm bells, because it is not clear that every 60-year-old man or 75-year-old woman is going to benefit from statin therapy," she said.

The new Nice risk scores should be seen as guidelines, and not tramlines which must be adhered to, she said. Other factors need to be taken into account before beginning a prescription.

Her comments follow a review of the new Nice scores that has discovered that 11.8 million people—which is 37 per cent of all adults in the UK—should begin statin therapy. Treatment could begin for people as young as 30 if they have a high risk score, and includes virtually every older adult.


(Source: British Journal of General Practice, 2017; doi:

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