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More than half of patients with ischaemic stroke may be missing out on potentially beneficial statin treatment because of flaws in current guidance.

In a study of 100 patients who had suffered ischaemic stroke or transient ischaemic attack, only 38 met the criteria for initiation of statins as set out by European Joint Task Force guidelines.

But 92 patients met the criteria used to enrol patients in the UK's Heart Protection Study ­ which found statins cut the incidence of ischaemic stroke by one-third. The researchers, from the Stroke Center at the University of California, said the Food and Drug Administration had recognised stroke and evidence of cerebrovascular disease as indications for starting statins in 2003.

But they said stroke guidelines in the US and Europe had not caught up.

Dr John Pittard, a GP in Staines and member of the CHD NSF guidance group, said: 'The waters are a bit muddy in this area. There haven't been many trials specifically looking at this and there's a bit of a reluctance to commit to guidance.'

The research was published in this month's Archives of Neurology.

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