UK & World News
Experts Say Statin Guidance Is 'Deeply Worrying'
Drugs that cut cholesterol could make middle-aged women more susceptible to diabetes, a group of top doctors has warned.
Known as statins, the drugs are currently offered to as many as seven million people who have a one-in-five chance of developing heart disease within 10 years.
Earlier this year, the NHS was urged to offer them to people with just a 10% risk, with advisers claiming there is "no credible argument against their safety".
However, leading clinicians have now written to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, warning against what they call the "medicalisation of millions of healthy individuals".
They say draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) is based almost entirely on studies funded by drugs companies.
People who take statins are at risk of fatigue and psychiatric problems, while men may suffer erectile dysfunction, they warn.
Professor Simon Capewell, from the University of Liverpool, said: "These recommendations are deeply worrying, effectively condemning all middle-aged adults to lifelong medications of questionable value."
Dr Aseem Malhotra, a London-based cardiologist, added: "Although there is good evidence that the benefits of statins outweigh the potential harms in those with established heart disease, this is clearly not the case for healthy people.
"A doctor wouldn't give chemotherapy to a patient who didn't have cancer or prescribe insulin to someone without diabetes."
However, Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for clinical practice at Nice, said the proposals were intended to tackle coronary heart disease, peripheral arterial disease and stroke, which are responsible for around one in three deaths in the UK.
"The independent committee of experts found that if a patient and their doctor measure the risk and decide statins are the right choice, the evidence clearly shows there is no credible argument against their safety and clinical effectiveness," he said.
Professor Baker also rejected allegations that the advice had been financially motivated.
"The committees are made up of clinicians, patients and others with the skills necessary to help interpret sometimes complex data," he said.
"None of them have put their names to the recommendations to make money for themselves."