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Questions asked on statins policy

A new analysis casts serious doubt on current policy for use of statins after questioning whether the drugs have real benefits for primary prevention.

Researchers analysed all eight available primary prevention studies and found no evidence the drugs reduced overall mortality at all in disease-free patients.

They claimed in an editorial in The Lancet that current guidance was based on false extrapolations of secondary care data.

None of the trials analysed found any reduction in total mortality. There was a small reduction in cardiovascular events of 1.5 per cent, with a number needed to treat to prevent one event of 67 over five years.

Further analysis suggested any benefit might be restricted to high-risk men aged 30 to 69.

Study author Professor Jim Wright, professor of pharmacology and internal medicine at the University of British Columbia, Canada, said: 'Our analysis suggests statins should not be prescribed for true primary prevention in women of any age or for men older than 69.

'High-risk men aged 30 to 69 should be advised about 50 patients need to be treated for five years to prevent one event. Many men presented with this do not choose to take a statin.'

Dr Rubin Minhas, CHD lead for Medway PCT and a GP in Gillingham, Kent, said about two-thirds of UK patients taking statins took them for primary prevention: 'We have moved towards aggressively lowering cholesterol in primary prevention when the evidence to support it is quite dubious.'

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