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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Patients miss out on lifesaving drugs
Statin pills
Statins are used to reduce cholesterol levels
Drugs which could save thousands of lives a year are still underused in the UK, according to a report.

A recent study showed that statins, which reduce cholesterol levels, could prevent a third of all heart attacks and strokes if used in people at risk.

Many more patients could benefit than previously thought, said the researchers.

However, research carried out at St George's Hospital in London found that three-quarters of men suffering from angina chest pains, and two-thirds of those who had already suffered a heart attack, are not being given statins.


This research shows that thousands of such people are not receiving drugs that could reduce their risk of future heart attack or stroke

Professor Sir Charles George, British Heart Foundation
There are fears that the relatively high cost of the treatment is deterring doctors from prescribing it.

The latest research looked at 3,700 medical records from local GP surgeries.

High cholesterol

Men between the ages of 60 and 75 were studied from the time of their diagnosis with heart problems to the present day.

The vast majority not given the drugs had cholesterol levels well above the recommended maximum.

This would put them at risk of further, life-threatening problems.

Professor Peter Whincup, who led the study, said: "There is often a delay from the time a new drug becomes available, to the time that it reaches widespread use.

"Many of the patients in this study who would benefit from cholesterol lowering drugs are those who are treated by their local GPs for angina who who suffered a heart attack some time in the past.

"These patients need to be identified at the GP level and, where appropriate, such drugs prescribed."

Millions of patients

The Department of Health has already endorsed the use of statins in its National Service Framework on Heart Disease and Stroke, which recommends the drugs for anyone with heart disease who has high cholesterol levels.

Ministers are now considering whether to "underwrite" the cost of using statins more widely.

Professor Sir Charles George, the medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said: "There are an estimated 2.2 million people in the UK who have angina or have survived a heart attack.

"This research shows that thousands of such people are not receiving drugs that could reduce their risk of future heart attack or stroke."

See also:

04 Jul 02 | Health
22 Jun 02 | Health
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