Cure-all? Statins have had no effect on Britain’s heart disease rate, study claims

Benefits of statins are exaggerated and not always the best way to prevent  heart disease, study claims

  • NHS spends £450million a year on  cholesterol-lowering drugs
  • Most are prescribed as a preventative  measure for heart disease, however experts admit they find it difficult to  predict who is at risk

PUBLISHED:06:50 EST, 9  August 2012| UPDATED:10:32 EST, 9 August 2012

Cure-all? Statins have had no effect on Britain’s heart  disease rate, study claims

Statins are not the best way to prevent heart  disease, according to new research.

The cholesterol-lowering drugs are taken by  seven million people in the UK, costing the NHS £450million a  year.

Conventional medical wisdom states they are a  good ‘cure-all’ treatment for heart disease, but making  dietary changes could be a more effective tactic, say scientists.

Professor Kausik Ray, of St George’s  Healthcare Trust in London, said statins are an effective treatment for many  people with heart problems, especially if they have already had a heart attack  or stroke.

However, this accounts for only a small  amount of patients who are actually prescribed statins. The majority are given  to people seen to be ‘at risk’ of the disease.

Professor Ray says it is very difficult to  predict who is at risk.

He told Mail Online that cost was the biggest  driver to prescribe statins to people at lower and lower risk from heart  disease.

He said: ‘Statins are cheap and fairly safe.  The costs of the drugs are as low as £1.30 a month compared to £24 a month a few  years ago.

‘However, the cost from heart  disease for hospital admissions, investigations, stents and bypasses is  huge.’

He added to The Sun: ‘For people with no  family history of heart problems and others deemed a low risk, other approaches  should be used, like eating a good diet full of fish, lean meat, vegetables and  low in saturated fat.’

He is one of the experts who has taken part  in a documentary due to be released in September, called ‘Statin Nation.’

The director Justin Smith claims the benefits  of statins are routinely exaggerated and that the pharmaceutical industry is  partly to blame.

He told Mail Online: ‘Creating a drug is a  costly and lengthy process so they are encouraging more patients to take  existing drugs.’

Mr Smith worked for four years as a personal  trainer and nutritional coach before writing the book ‘$29  Billion Reasons to Lie About Cholesterol’ in 2009.

He said he made the crowd-funded documentary  because he believes doctors are being provided with too much information that  favours the drugs industry.

However, Professor Peter Weissberg, from the  British Heart Foundation, contested this saying: ‘The most commonly used statins  are off patent, which means the drug cmopanies no longer have any financial  incentive in expanding the market.

‘It is the medical community who is pushing  for wider use of statins since they are convinced by the evidence this will  reduce heart attacks and strokes in the future.’

Mr Smith also pointed to a 2008 study by  Allender et al in Coronary Heart Disease Statistics, which found the heart  disease rate did not decline between 1994 and 2006 in men aged 65 to 94 yet high  cholesterol levels dropped by 40 per cent.

He added that average cholesterol levels in  the UK are low when compared with the rest of Europe,  yet the UK has one  of the highest rates of heart attacks

Mr Smith said: ‘I hope that the film will  prompt more people to ask their doctor questions like: if I take this  cholesterol medication, how much longer might I live?

‘This question is important because most  people will not receive life extension from statins.’

He added that negative side-effects of  statins were not given enough prominence.

However, Maureen Talbot, Senior  Cardiac  Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, said: ‘Statins are now a  very important  part of the lives of millions of people and play a vital  role in both lowering  cholesterol and helping prevent heart attacks.

‘Their importance shouldn’t be  underestimated and the potential risk of side effects are outweighed by  the  proven benefits. The use of statins is the main reason why fewer  people have  high cholesterol levels now compared to 20 years ago.

‘Your body will always make  cholesterol so  if you stop taking a statin it’s likely your cholesterol  levels will rise. So,  if you’re prescribed a statin make sure you take  it every day because they’re  most beneficial when you take them on a  long-term basis. If you develop side  effects see your GP as the medicine or dose can be changed. ‘

But she added: ‘It’s  worth remembering though that you may be able head off the  prospect of being  prescribed statins by eating a healthy balanced diet,  keeping physically active  and maintaining a healthy weight and body  shape.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2185962/Benefits-statins-exaggerated-best-way-prevent-heart-disease-study-claims.html#ixzz23E7IhqJ5