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Independents' Day

Fears on pharmacy cholesterol tests

A Government-commissioned study concludes cholesterol tests in pharmacies, supermarkets and other public settings are counterproductive as they can stop patients at high risk of coronary heart disease from visiting their GP.

A proposal for statins to be sold over the counter in the UK is likely to result in a surge in cholesterol testing via pharmacies. Researchers warn such tests are not taken as seriously as those in a health-care

setting.

The Health Technology Assessment report, largely

based on studies of open-access screening in the USA, found up to 60 per cent of patients with raised cholesterol levels did not attend follow-up appointments.

Researchers said screening led to people making diet and lifestyle changes but it may lessen people's 'perceived seriousness' of the test and make them feel visiting the doctor is unnecessary.

In all but two of the 55 studies reviewed, screening led to a reduction in blood cholesterol level among those diagnosed with hypercholesterolaemia.

Study author Joanne Brett, a researcher at the primary care education research group at the University of Oxford, said raised cholesterol must be viewed alongside other risk factors for an accurate picture.

She said: 'There is multiple interaction with other risk factors. Those classified as low risk by cholesterol screening could in fact be at high risk ­ yet lifestyle changes are not made.'

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