The UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has broadened the spectrum of patients that can be prescribed the statin class of cholesterol-lowering drugs on the National Health Service in England and Wales.

But Pfizer, which makes the top-selling statin drug Lipitor (atorvastatin), maintains that the guidance has not gone far enough.

“The guidance, which recommends the use of statins to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, may mean that more than 3 million new patients benefit from treatment,” said the company in a statement. But it insists that the focus on initiating treatment – rather than making sure patients meet current cholesterol targets – means that the guidance does not conform to recommendations from bodies such as the British Hypertension Society and the Joint British Societies [[13/10/05f]] [[28/09/05d]] [[03/06/05e]].

“As a result, newly diagnosed patients may remain at greater cardiovascular risk for longer than necessary,” said Pfizer. NICE is not due to update the statin guidelines until 2007.

The agency said its appraisal ‘relates only to the initiation of statin therapy in adults with clinical evidence of cardiovascular disease and in adults considered to be at risk of CVD [and] assumes that other strategies for managing CVD risk are being appropriately considered when initiating statin therapy’.