A study carried out by researchers at the University of Oxford recommends that the cholesterol-lowering drugs, statins, should be prescribed to healthy people, as well as those at risk of problems with high cholesterol. The recommendation forms the conclusion of a study of 175,000 people published in the Lancet this week.
Currently, statins are offered to people with a 20% or higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next ten years. The statins work to combat this risk by lowering levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. High levels of LDL cholesterol, known simply as ‘bad cholesterol’, can lead to blocked blood vessels resulting in heart attacks and stroke. This new report states that it is not just high cholesterol that is a problem, the researchers have learnt that “…reducing it further is beneficial. Whatever your level of risk, the benefits [of lowering cholesterol] greatly exceed any known hazard.”
Professor Colin Baigent, one of the researchers on the study, advised that by prescribing statins to those patients with only a 10% risk of cardiovascular would lead to 2000 fewer deaths every year. Many strokes or heart attacks arise unexpectedly in previously healthy people and Prof Baigent emphasised that “…we’ve got to consider treating healthy people.”
The research has called for the National Institute of Clinical Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to review and update its guidelines. A review will now be started to bring the guidelines up-to-date and the results are expected towards the end of 2013.