U.K. to add 1.5M at-risk patients to preventive statin treatment

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U.K. health authorities plan to encourage more statin use. Source: Daily Mail  

The U.K. National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued new guidelines to require all adults aged 40 to 75 to be assessed for risks, including smoking, weight and blood pressure, and those with at least a 20 percent increased chance of a heart attack over the next 10 years, should be offered statin treatment.

NICE said the “systematic identification” of the patients, who may not even realize they are at risk, would prevent 15,000 heart attacks and strokes every year. The institute estimated that about 4.1 million people in England and Wales are already taking statins, but another 1.4 million should be offered them.

The additional drugs will cost $68.81 million (£35 million) annually with $55.05 million (£28 million) for identifying those at risk in the first year, BBC News reported.

“This guideline has huge potential to reduce preventable events [heart attacks and strokes]. The point is to provide a systematic targeted approach. In the past, the patients who have been the focus of treatment are those who have already had a heart attack. This looks at people at high risk before they have had a heart attack, to prevent it happening. We should be able to prevent 15,000 heart attacks and strokes each year,” said Gillian Leng, MD, deputy chief executive of NICE.

No one would be forced to have drug treatment, but people at high risk should be told and given advice, Leng said. However, she added that reducing cholesterol by diet alone is hard to achieve, while taking a statin is “simple, easy and effective.”

The guideline is “major public health initiative” and would be a welcome addition to the governments’ vascular screening program, John Robson, MD, a general practitioner and chair of the guideline group. “It ensures an efficient and equitable method of targeting treatment to those most likely to benefit,” Robson added.

A U.K. Department of Health spokeswoman told BBC News that they are still working on plans for vascular screening for those aged between 40 and 74 years to minimize their risk of developing disease.