People should take statins regardless of how healthy and active they are, leading US experts have said.
Researchers say taking the daily medication protects against stroke and heart attacks no matter how low a person’s cholesterol levels.
In an article for the American Journal of Medicine, the scientists express “grave concerns” about the “many needless premature deaths” caused by people not taking statins, and point to “misplaced” and “unproven” worries that the drugs can cause diabetes.
“There is no threshold for cholesterol below which there are no net benefits of statins”
Professor Joseph Alpert, University of Arizona
Current NHS advice states that doctors should prescribe the cholesterol-thinning medication where patients are judged to have a 20 per cent or greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease within the next 10 years.
However, the US scientists are now calling for the drugs to be prescribed even to low-risk patients.
Joseph Alpert, professor of medicine at the University of Arizona, said: “There is no threshold for low density lipoprotein cholesterol below which there are no net benefits of statins either in the treatment or primary prevention of heart attacks and strokes.”
Approximately six million people take statins in the UK, however a Lancet study published last September argued that number should double and that the drug’s side-effects had been greatly exaggerated.
A separate investigation by the University of Birmingham found that failing to prescribe statins to large numbers of eligible people was contributing to 12,000 preventable strokes each year.
“The totality of evidence clearly indicates that the more widespread and appropriate utilisation of statins, as adjuncts, not alternatives to therapeutic lifestyle changes, will yield net benefits in the treatment and primary prevention of heart attacks and strokes, including among high, medium and low-risk patients unwilling or unable to adopt therapeutic lifestyle changes,” said Professor Charles Hennekens, from Florida Atlantic University.
He added that current prescribing practices were “especially alarming” in the context of the primary prevention of serious ill health.
Recent research suggested that putting heart disease patients straight onto a double dose of statins could reduce their chance of dying by 20 per cent.
Standard NHS practice is to start people on a moderate level of statins and increase levels if the drugs fail to lower cholesterol levels.
While there is widespread academic agreement that statins are beneficial, some scientists have argued that equal positive effects could be achieved by a healthier lifestyle.
Last August leading heart experts said patients should be prescribed Mediterranean diets – rich in fruit, vegetables, fish, nuts, whole grains and olive oil – before being put on drugs.
Read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/18/take-statins-even-healthy-say-experts/