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Statin scripts fall

GP statin prescriptions have fallen sharply ­ the first decline since use of the drugs became widespread ­ surprising new results reveal.

Researchers suggested the fall was linked to simvastatin becoming available over the counter in July 2004.

The theory, which was questioned by GPs, would throw into doubt the reliability of pharmacist risk evaluations, since the risk groups for OTC and prescription statins are supposed to be different.

The analysis of data from the UK general practice research database showed that since 2001, prescriptions for statins had been increasing by 14,900 per quarter.

But there was a deficit of around 8,500 prescriptions per quarter for the year after the OTC policy was introduced.

Particularly surprisingly, the downward trend was observed not only for 20mg simvastatin but for higher-dose prescriptions as well.

Study leader Kris Filion, doctoral student in the department of epidemiology, biostatistics and occupational health at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, said: 'Our study does highlight the need for increased surveillance of prescribed and OTC statins.'

But Dr Terry McCormack, a GP in Whitby and chair of the Primary Care Cardiovascular Society, was sceptical.

'The uptake of OTC statins was very poor ­ there was no way enough people would have bought them instead of prescription.

'If there was a drop there must be some other explanation.'

Mr Filion presented the research at the American College of Cardiology meeting in San Francisco last week.

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