NICE has told an influential group of MPs that it does ‘not want millions more people taking statins’, despite lowering the risk threshold for prescription.
Chair Professor David Haslam and chief executive Andrew Dillon told the Commons health committee last week that GPs would not be compelled to prescribe the drug, pointing out that it ‘remains a decision for the patients’.
But the GPC has questioning the discrepancy between NICE’s updated guidance and public assurances from its chair.
The updated guidelines, released in July, say preventive treatment for cardiovascular disease in the form of statins should begin in patients with a 10% risk of developing the disease over 10 years. The risk threshold was previously 20% over 10 years.
Professor Haslam told the health committee: ‘I do want to stress as well that NiCE made it really clear that we are not saying we want millions more people taking statins.’
However, GPC clinical and prescribing subcommittee chair Andrew Green said there was ‘insufficient evidence of significant overall benefit to low-risk individuals’ to support cutting the prescription threshold.
He said: ‘What Professor Haslam says should happen between patients and their GPs is exactly right, and I suspect that as individual doctors our views are very similar.
‘The problem is, that is not what the guidance says in any of its key recommendations for implementation, which are quite definite about the offering of medication at the 10% risk level.”
Dr Green added: ‘The discrepancy between NICE’s document and the statements from its chair will do nothing to allay the concerns of GPs who have deep reservations about the wisdom of implementing such fundamental changes.’
When the new guidelines were published in July, the GPC expressed concern over the economic viability of prescribing statins at an earlier stage.
It also raised doubts over NICE’s claims that wider use of the drugs could prevent thousands of premature deaths, stating that drug treatment had not been shown to reduce mortality in low-risk patients significantly.