Doctors have been advised to prescribe cholesterol-lowering statins to patients at risk of heart disease.
Some three milion people who face a 20 per cent or greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease within 10 years will be deemed eligible to treatment available from the NHS. The National Council for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which advises the health service on treatments, said statins should also be given to patients already suffering from heart disease.
Almost two million people are already taking statins in the UK and the drugs are believed to save 7,000 lives a year. Statins help to prevent atherosclerosis, narrowing of the arteries, by slowing down production of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
Heart disease was the biggest killer in the UK last year, claiming 238,000 victims. Making statins more widely available will cost between £55m-£82m, but when offset against hospital treatment, the cost to the NHS is estimated at less than £9m.
Professor David Barnett, who chaired the Nice committee that developed the advice, said: "About 3.3 million people will be eligible for statin therapy as a result of these recommendations."
The guidelines for doctors to prescribe statins, available only at low doses over the counter, have previously been restrictive.Reuse content