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Cholesterol drug approved for NHS

New guidance means people who cannot tolerate the cholesterol-lowering drugs statins will get access to a different form of treatment on the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has approved Ezetimibe (ezetrol) for the treatment of hypercholesterolaemia, which is characterised by high amounts of cholesterol in the blood.

The most common form of the condition - primary non-familial hypercholesterolaemia - sees genetic factors combine with a person's lifestyle habits, such as poor diet, smoking and a lack of exercise, to cause high cholesterol levels.

According to NICE, Ezetimibe works by inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine, unlike statins which inhibit the production of cholesterol in the liver.

The drug is designed for people who would normally be given statins but cannot take them because of health reasons or because they cannot tolerate them.

It is also an option for patients whose cholesterol is still not properly controlled after an increase in their initial dose of statin or where they cannot tolerate the statin.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "We welcome the NICE guidelines on the use of Ezetimibe.

"It is an effective alternative for those who cannot tolerate a statin and a useful addition when a statin is not enough to lower a person's cholesterol level on its own."

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