ESC highlights need for screening and global risk management as statins move over the counter in UK

Today Dr John Reid, the Health Secretary for the United Kingdom (UK), announced the reclassification of statins as 'over the counter' products in the UK, to be available to members of the public directly from pharmacists without the need for a prescription. With this move, recently approved by the UK's Committee on Safety of Medicines, the UK is the first country to move a statin from prescription-only to over the counter access.

The initial statin to be available from pharmacists will be simvastatin, at a daily dosage of 10mg. Simvastatin will be targeted at individuals with a low to moderate risk of heart disease, specifically sub-populations such as men aged 50 years and over and women aged 55 and over with one or more risk factors including: obesity, cigarette smoking, insufficient physical exercise, unhealthy diet, hypertension, diabetes or family history of heart disease. An on-the-spot blood test is envisaged to assess if an individual requesting simvastatin is eligible and if the results are positive the treatment can be purchased immediately.

As a result of this decision, UK health authorities expect to increase the usage of statins in primary prevention, in order to reduce cholesterol levels in the UK population and ultimately reduce the country's high incidence of heart disease, arguing that the move is in favour of improving patient choice and access to medicines.

Statins not a stand-alone prevention measure

In light of this development, the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) stresses the importance of viewing statins appropriately within the global risk management environment.

Simvastatin, along with the other statins in its class, is a very effective treatment option in both primary and secondary cardiovascular disease prevention. However, it is by no means a substitute for lifestyle factor improvements and should only be taken in parallel to effective risk factor reduction methods such as health

Contact: Camilla Dormer
European Society of Cardiology

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