Healthcare: On the Agenda - Widespread use of statins queried

In a nutshell

A study investigating the use of statins, a cholesterol-lowering drug, has caused controversy after suggesting that there is not enough evidence to recommend the widespread use of statins. The research, published in The Cochrane Library, an online digital magazine, reviewed data from 14 trials involving 34,272 patients.

It concluded that statins should be prescribed with caution for those at low risk of cardiovascular disease.

What are statins?

Statins are recommended for people who have suffered a cardiovascular event, such a heart attack. There is strong evidence to suggest that the drug significantly reduces the risk of a second event occurring. However, doctors can prescribe them to lower-risk patients and consumers can purchase them over the counter at pharmacies.

PR strategy

The Cochrane Library is published monthly online by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the Cochrane Collaboration. Wiley-Blackwell sent out a press release highlighting the review to national and international media outlets.

Media coverage

A review questioning such a widely used and highly profitably drug was always going to cause controversy and the story was covered widely in the media. On 19 January, Channel 4 News devoted six minutes to the story, and it also featured on the BBC's Today programme and the front pages of The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail.

£22bn - The amount that leading pharmaceutical firms earned from statins in 2010

7m - The number of people thought to be using statins in England alone.

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