Thousands of lives could be saved every year by expanding the number of people who take cholesterol-lowering statins by up to 1.5 million, a health watchdog has said.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has told doctors to assist in identifying people at risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) who could be benefit from being prescribed statins.
According to Philip Ranson from NICE, around four million people in England and Wales currently take statins but the new guidance could see an extra 1.5 million benefit.
CVD is a leading cause of ill-health and death in the UK, accounting for 124,000 deaths in 2005. The new guidance is designed to address the patchy prescribing of statins in primary care.
A patient's risk of CVD can be calculated from factors to give a score (known as the Framingham score) which identifies people at highest risk.
The NICE guidance urges doctors to look at risk factors - age, smoking, blood and cholesterol levels - in people aged 40 to 75 using information contained in their GP records.
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What do you think of the new guidelines? Do you think more people should be prescribed statins? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"No, it must be assessed on an individul basis, as I have witnessed first hand the adverse consequences of the side-effects of statins on my father-in-law who really should have been told to try dietary and exercise management first. Even though he has stopped the statins he is now suffering with severe joint and muscle pains and is still on high-dose pain killers and steroids a year later." - P Hung, West Midlands