New research shows that statins can provide protection against heart disease years after patients have stopped taking them.
The cholesterol-lowering drugs, which are used by an estimated three million people in the UK, can reduce the risk of heart attacks by more than a quarter in men, according to the report.
Researchers at Glasgow University found that people who took the drugs for five years were still experiencing the benefits 10 years after they stopped taking them, and that they had a reduced risk of coronary disease.
The 15-year West of Scotland Coronary Prevention study involved 6595 men from the region, with an average age of 55, who had high cholesterol.
Initially they were split into two groups, with one group given a placebo and the other given pravastatin. Their health was followed for five years and the statin users were found to have a lower risk of strokes and heart disease.
The latest research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, examined the same group ten and 15 years later.
It found that there was a "significant" reduction in coronary problems for people who had taken the statins.
Professor Ian Ford, lead author of the study, told The Times: "Remarkably, five years of treatment with a statin resulted in 27% fewer nonfatal heart attacks or deaths due to heart disease over the period of 15 years. There was a significant 12% reduction in deaths over the entire period, with deaths due to heart disease reduced by 22%."
Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply) "There are so many different studies with so many conflicting results I find it difficult to advise re their use - especially in women. If professionals are unsure, how can the general public make informed choices?" - Name and address supplied