Heart experts call for urgent action to implement new findings on cholesterol-lowering treatment

Research reported in Saturday 6 July Lancet is set to revolutionise the way cholesterol-lowering drugs are prescribed. It shows that using "statin" drugs to lower blood cholesterol levels protects a far wider range of people at risk of heart attacks and strokes than had previously been thought to benefit. These findings should lead to major changes in treatment guidelines, preventing tens of thousands of deaths each year, a London news briefing has been told.

At present, statins are often restricted to people who have heart disease and elevated cholesterol levels. But, new findings from the UK's 20,000-patient Heart Protection Study* show that statins also cut the risks of heart attacks and strokes in people who have diabetes, or have narrowing of arteries in their legs, or have had a stroke. Most remarkably, the study found substantial benefits even among those high-risk patients considered to have "normal" or "low" cholesterol levels. It provides definite evidence that guidelines should be changed so that irrespective of the blood cholesterol level a statin is considered for anybody at increased risk of either heart attacks or strokes.

"The clear message from this study is: 'Treat risk not cholesterol level', "said Professor Sir Charles George, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation the UK's leading heart charity. He called for an urgent review of national and international guidelines on statin use by government organisations, such as the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the UK and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the USA, as well as by professional bodies, such as the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) and the American Heart Association (AHA).

The study overturns conventional wisdom in a number of other areas. For example, current guidelines say that there is little evidence that statins help older individuals. By deliberately studying large numbers of older people, the researchers were able to

Contact: Margaret Willson
Clinical Trial Service Unit, Oxford University

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