The NHS has announced plans to review making statins available direct from pharmacists, as part of the Long Term Plan.
The organisation has announced that high dose statins could be made available directly from high street pharmacies as part of the plan, in order to cut heart disease and stroke.
In a new review, England’s top pharmacist Dr Keith Ridge and newly-appointed director of primary care, Dr Nikki Kanani, will look at how the cholesterol-busting drugs could be provided by high street chemists.
The review comes as despite low dose statins being available over the counter, they are not generally made available by pharmaceutical firms. Making the most effective and powerful versions safely available, without a doctor’s prescription, could “prevent thousands more deaths and countless more heart attacks and strokes".
It’s estimated that as many as two-thirds of people most at risk of heart attack and stroke do not take statins, but would benefit from doing so.
Speaking at the Expo health and care innovation conference in Manchester, NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said: “Pharmacists are highly trained health professionals who are greatly valued by patients. Since the NHS will be funding local chemists to undertake health checks, it makes sense to consider whether there are a broader range of medicines that patients could access conveniently and locally on the high street.
“So the NHS will now work with the MHRA and industry to see how we can best make this happen. After cancer lung scanning trucks in supermarket car parks and High Street heart checks, this is another step towards making care and treatment more accessible, convenient and effective.”
The NHS is currently also introducing heart checks on the high street as part of the new £13 billion five-year contract for community pharmacists.
People at high risk of cardiovascular disease – defined by NICE as more than 10% chance of a heart attack or stroke in years – are first offered lifestyle advice to lower cholesterol, and if that is not effective, they are then offered statins.
If only 45% of people with a high risk of cardiovascular disease were identified and treated, 6,000 strokes and heart attacks could be avoided over the next ten years.