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GPs use widely different risk thresholds for deciding when to prescribe drugs for the prevention of coronary heart disease, new research shows.

Some 15 per cent of GPs prescribe drugs to patients with a five-year risk of CHD as low as 3 per cent, while at the other end of the scale, 5 per cent do not prescribe until the five-year risk reaches 30 per cent.

Just a third of GPs prescribe at 15 per cent five-year risk ­ roughly equivalent to the 30 per cent 10-year risk threshold recommended by the national service framework on CHD.

Research leader Dr Tom Marshall, lecturer at the University of Birmingham's department of public health and epidemiology, said there was a genuine difference of opinion about who should be treated.

'It is an opinion when you decide to treat a risk. It would be surprising if everybody was the same,' he said.

The postal survey, published in Heart (March), questioned 192 GPs on treatment decisions in six scenarios.

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