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Statins 'Could Boost Health Of Millions'
Healthy people could cut their risk of having a heart attack or stroke by taking cholesterol-lowering statins, according to a study.
Currently the drugs are only prescribed to people with at least a 20% risk of cholesterol-related illnesses.
But research published in the Lancet medical journal suggests statins also help low-risk patients and should be more widely prescribed.
Many doctors already take the pills, which lower levels of cholesterol in the blood.
To conduct the "meta-analysis" study, they pooled together data on 175,000 patients who took part in 27 separate randomised trials.
Participants were grouped into one of five categories of five-year major vascular event risk.
Statins were found to reduce the risk of serious vascular events by more than a fifth (21%) for each unit reduction in levels of harmful cholesterol.
The pattern was repeated in each of the five groups studied, including those people at lowest risk.
In individuals where the five-year chance of a major event was less than 10%, the already small risk was significantly lowered, even in people with no history of vascular disease.
This was mainly due to reduced numbers of heart attacks and surgical operations.
The authors, led by Professor Colin Baigent, from Oxford University, wrote: "This benefit greatly exceeds any known hazards of statin therapy.
"Under present guidelines, such individuals would not typically be regarded as suitable for LDL-lowering statin therapy. The present report suggests, therefore, that these guidelines might need to be reconsidered."
The research found no evidence that statins increased cancer incidence or deaths from non-vascular causes.
A Department of Health spokesman said: "We keep all new research under consideration.
"Nice (National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence, which assesses the cost effectiveness of NHS treatments) regularly reviews its published guidance in order to take account of new evidence."