Any who wants to take statins should be able to opt out of cholesterol-fighting drugs under radical new guidance from the NHS.
Currently around 8 million people in the UK take the drugs to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
But England’s chief medical officer is concerned about a sharp rise in cardiac deaths since the pandemic, which may be due to a drop in the number of people taking medication during lockdown.
The new draft of the guide from the National Institute of Excellence in Health Care (Nice) says that the decision about whether to take medications it should be left to individual patients.
While doctors will proactively continue to offer the cheap pills to all patients who have a 10 percent risk of heart attack or stroke in the next year, those with much lower risks may also opt for them, after discussion. with your doctor, the advice states.
Estimates suggest that around 17 million people in England qualify for statins based on current criteria. The change could mean nearly twice as many people could be eligible.
It comes amid deep concern about the rise in cardiac deaths in the UK.
The latest figures for England and Wales suggest around 1,000 excess deaths per week, with only a minority related to Covid.
Paul Chrisp, director of the Nice Guidelines Centre, said: “What we are saying is that, for people with less than 10 per cent 10-year risk of a first heart attack or stroke, the decision to take a statin it should be left to individual patients after an informed discussion of benefits and risks.
“The evidence is clear, in our opinion, that for people with a risk of 10 percent or less over 10 years, statins are an appropriate option to reduce that risk.”
Officials said they were still urging lifestyle reviews to reduce the chance of heart disease.
‘Understanding the risks’
Dr Chrisp said: “We are not advocating that statins be used alone. The draft guideline goes on to say that only if lifestyle changes alone are not enough, and if other risk factors such as hypertension are also controlled, can people who are still at risk be offered the opportunity to use a statin, if They want.
“They don’t have to, and their decision should be based on an understanding of the risks and tailored to their values and priorities.”
He said the new guidance said the decision to take statins was a matter of personal choice.
“Many people may well say they are happy to accept the risk of heart attack or stroke rather than taking statins every day, which is absolutely their prerogative. They just need to know and understand the level of risk, and this in itself can be a complex discussion,” he said.
If 1,000 people with a 5 percent chance of having a heart attack or stroke within a decade were given statins, about two cases would be prevented, Nice’s estimates suggest.
With the current threshold of 10 percent, around four cases are prevented.
People may be at risk for heart disease due to factors they cannot change, such as age, gender, ethnicity, and family history.
The draft guidance continues to recommend that risk factors that can be addressed be managed.
These include quitting smoking, cutting back on alcohol, exercising, and eating a healthy diet.