Cholesterol drugs lower heart disease deaths
30 August, 2007 - Statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs, are contributing to a big fall in the numbers of people dying from heart disease in the UK, according to data released on Friday.
About 3m Britons take the drugs for heart disease, which is the single most common cause of death in the UK.
According to the British Heart Foundation, statins reduce the risk of dying from coronary heart disease by 25 per cent. â€œStatins are saving between 9,000 and 10,000 lives in the UK every year,â€ said Professor Roger Boyle, national director for heart disease and stroke at the Department of Health.
Death rates from cardiovascular disease (CVD) fell 36 per cent between 1996 and 2004. Prof Boyle said about 60 per cent of the reduction was due to improvements in lifestyle such as stopping smoking and taking more exercise. But the remaining 40 per cent was directly attributed to medical treatment with cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as statins.
These drugs work by lowering the amount of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol in blood. This â€œbadâ€ cholesterol is a big risk factor for heart disease, heart attack and stroke because it contributes to the build-up of plaque that clogs the walls of arteries.
CVD has become a leading cause of death worldwide, with figures in some industrialised countries reaching epidemic proportions. In the UK, mortality from cardiovascular disease exceeds that from cancer, accounting for more than 208,000 deaths every year.
Heart disease is a huge annual burden on the UK economy. The cost of healthcare for heart patients is more than Â£1.7bn a year. According to the BHF report, the cost of NHS prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering drugs was Â£625m in 2005.
Last June, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence unveiled guidelines, recommending that statins should be prescribed to people with a 20 per cent risk of developing heart disease. If the recommendations were followed, the number of people taking the drug on prescription would double.