The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is considering whether to review the use of statins in the UK, as evidence mounts that their use in seemingly healthy people could save thousands of lives and substantial resources.

Current policy allows for the prescription of statins if patients have a 20% or higher risk of developing heart disease within 10 years, but calls to extend the target population for therapy have been growing.

Earlier this week, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that statin therapy, if adhered to properly, can cut the risk of death by a very significant 45% in those with no indication of cardiac illness as well as those at risk from heart disease.

“The research confirms the benefits of statins throughout the stages of heart disease and it is a powerful indicator of the safety of this kind of treatment,” Professor Roger Boyle, the National Director for Heart Disease and Stroke, told The Telegraph.

Saving lives
If NICE considers it cost-effective, then the current statin programme could be expanded to include patients with a much lower risk of developing heart disease, which could save 2,000 lives a year and prevent thousands of heart attacks and bypass operations, reports The Telegraph.

“In the UK, prescription of statins for primary prevention is currently confined to those considered to be at high risk of developing heart disease, [but] as the evidence accumulates and statins become less expensive it is highly likely that the threshold for using statins in primary prevention will fall,” commented Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation.

However, those opposed to such a move have questioned whether healthy patients should be taking any medication at all, and there are concerns that it may cause some to needlessly worry about their health.

NICE says it is hoping to confirm whether its statin guidance will be reviewed by the end of next month.