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Increased Warning over heart drugs

There has been a dramatic increase in the number of statin prescriptions in recent years, as is to be publicized at the conference organised by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh//.

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

He noted that people with a relatively low risk of heart disease were being put on the drug, "turning them into patients". Lowering blood pressure and cholesterol can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke according to him. 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."

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, stated that 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."

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

These guidelines were put in place in the hope 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 not only causes about 238,000 deaths in the UK yearly, It is also a significant cause of ill health.

Statins are prescribed to reduce the level of harmful cholesterol in the blood by slowing down its production in the liver. Already around 1.8 million people 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. He said, "Lifestyle is of course a contributory factor to fatal diseases."

"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."

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