More drugs to help reduce heart disease risk

Revised guidelines for the prescription of cholesterol-busting drugs mean that over three million people at risk from cardiovascular disease (CVD) will now be able to receive them.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has today issued guidance to the NHS in England and Wales on the use of statins for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in adults and for the treatment of adults with established CVD.

The guidance recommends that statins be used either where there is clinical evidence of an individual having CVD, or where the risk of an individual developing CVD within 10 years is estimated to be 20% or greater.

Professor David Barnett, Chair of the Independent Appraisal Committee that developed the guidance, said: “In terms of potential impact this guidance is arguably one of the most significant to have come out of NICE since it started over six years ago. We estimate that around 3.3 million people will become eligible for statin therapy as a result of these recommendations, which offer clear guidance about which patients should be started on treatment with a statin and how doctors should go about it. But the guidance also makes the important point that other strategies for managing CVD risk over and above the use of statins – such as stopping smoking and other lifestyle measures – should also be considered when initiating statin therapy.”

CVD is a disease of the heart and blood vessels which can result in a number of serious consequences including heart attack, angina, and stroke. Blood cholesterol levels, together with other risk factors such as smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, physical inactivity and type 2 diabetes, are known to influence a person’s risk of CVD.

Interventions used to prevent CVD and to treat it include lifestyle measures such as stopping smoking, increased physical activity and diet. Drug treatments include lipid lowering drugs (statins), antihypertensives and aspirin.

Almost 238,000 deaths were attributable to CVD in 2002, making it the single most common cause of death in the UK, of which nearly 67,000 occurred before the age of 75 years.

CVD is also a significant cause of ill health and can have a major impact on quality of life.

Coronary heart disease (CHD), which is caused by the narrowing of the arteries that supply the blood, is the most common type of CVD and is estimated to be the leading cause of disability in Europe.


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