Statins are a widely prescribed class of drugs used to lower cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular events such as heart disease and strokes. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently released updated guidelines on the use of statins, which now recommend that they can be considered for people at a lower risk threshold.
This decision was made after the independent committee updating the NICE guideline on cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessment and reduction considered new evidence on the safety and side effects of statins, meaning more people could be given them.
The draft guideline recommends that doctors should consider statins for people who haven’t had a CVD event (called ‘primary prevention’) with a 10-year CVD risk score of less than 10%. The committee agreed that if more people took statins there would be a greater reduction in the incidence of heart disease and strokes.
In addition to being prescribed by National Health Service GP’s, statins can also be prescribed by private healthcare providers, such as us, Fleet Street Clinic. In fact, private GP’s can play an important role in the management of cardiovascular disease risk by offering statins as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for patients at high risk.
People can be at risk from CVD because of factors they cannot change including their age, sex, ethnicity and family history but it’s important to note that certain lifestyle changes can reduce the risk. These include stopping smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, introducing or increasing exercise and eating a healthy diet.
Therefore, the decision to take a statin should be made in consultation with a healthcare professional and should take into account the individual’s values and priorities as well as the potential risks and benefits of treatment.
With the British Heart Foundation noting that “there are around 7.6 million people living with heart and circulatory diseases in the UK” and that they “estimate that in the UK more than half of us will get a heart or circulatory condition in our lifetime” this is likely to be an impactful change in the landscape of CVD and statins.
To conclude, Paul Chrisp, director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, said:
“What we’re saying is that, for people with a less than 10% risk over 10 years of a first heart attack or stroke, the decision to take a statin should be left to individual patients after an informed discussion of benefits and risks.
“The evidence is clear, in our view, that for people with a risk of 10% or less over 10 years, statins are an appropriate choice to reduce that risk.
“We are not advocating that statins are used alone. The draft guideline continues to say that it is only if lifestyle changes on their own are not sufficient, and that other risk factors such as hypertension are also managed, that people who are still at risk can be offered the opportunity to use a statin, if they want to. They don’t have to, and their decision should be informed by an understanding of the risks and tailored to their values and priorities.”
Reference Source: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/indevelopment/gid-ng10178/documents
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