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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 October 2006, 14:43 GMT
Warning over heart drugs increase
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Prescriptions of statins have risen dramatically
Drugs to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure have been offered to too many healthy patients, doctors claim.

A conference organised by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh will hear that prescription of statins has risen dramatically.

Dr Paul Padfield said it was easier to offer a prescription than to persuade people to make lifestyle changes.

He said people with a relatively low risk of heart disease were being put on the drug, "turning them into patients".

The doctor said that lowering blood pressure and cholesterol reduced the risk of heart attack and stroke.

'Environmental factors'

He said: "All of us have a risk of heart attack and stroke, it just depends on how high that risk should be before we decide to treat it with drugs

"There is a lot of high blood pressure in our society which is to do with environmental factors such as we are too heavy and we consume too much salt.

"Addressing those will lower blood pressure and, to some extent, cholesterol."

I would not want this conference to suggest that medical intervention at reducing cardiovascular risk is a waste of time
Dr Mike Napton
British Heart Foundation

Dr Padfield added: "We ought to be targeting those at the highest level of risk for tablets and for the rest, working hard to prevent them getting to the stage where they need tablets."

Dr Mike Napton, of the British Heart Foundation, said there was evidence to support medical interventions which reduced the risk of heart disease and stroke.

He said: "If somebody comes to see me as a GP, I would be negligent if I identified they had high risk of cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years and did not do something about it.

"The balance can be got wrong but I would not want this conference to suggest that medical intervention at reducing cardiovascular risk is a waste of time."

Ill health

New NHS guidelines urge GPs to prescribe statins to those with a 20% risk of developing cardiovascular disease within 10 years, as well as those who have it.

It is hoped that the widening of prescription guidelines will ultimately save the NHS money by reducing the number of people who have to undergo costly heart operations such as bypasses.

Cardiovascular disease causes about 238,000 deaths in the UK yearly and is also a significant cause of ill health.

Statins reduce the level of harmful cholesterol in the blood by slowing down its production in the liver.

Some 1.8 million people already receive the drugs on the NHS.

Health Minister Andy Kerr said the Scottish Executive was on track to meeting tough targets to halve premature stroke deaths and cut premature heart deaths by nearly two thirds.

"Lifestyle is of course a contributory factor to fatal diseases," he said.

"So, as well as investing in the right care and treatment, we need to help people in helping themselves to lead heathier lives so there is less chance of them becoming ill.

"Stopping smoking, improving diet and increasing levels of physical activity are at the heart of health improvement."

An interview with Dr Paul Padfield

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