Healthcare: On the Agenda - Statins advised for the over-50s

In a nutshell

A study funded by the British and Australian medical research councils and the British Heart Foundation (BHF) has found statins cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by a fifth, regardless of the health of the person taking them.

About the study

The research suggested that the benefits of taking statins, which inhibit cholesterol production in the liver, are wider than previously thought. On the NHS, statins are restricted to patients deemed to be at 20 per cent risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next decade. But the report's authors found that, as the risk of cardiovascular disease increases with age, it would be 'pragmatic' to prescribe statins for all over-50s. Though side effects include muscle weakness and diabetes, these are outweighed by the benefits. The study was published online by The Lancet.

PR strategy

The Lancet sent a release to national, international and regional press and placed it on science news service EurkekAlert. Responses were also provided by the BHF. Colin Baigent, who led the study from the Epidemiological Studies Unit at Oxford University, and Dr Shah Ebrahim of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, were put up for interview.

Media coverage

Baigent was interviewed on the Today programme. Coverage included the Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, the Daily Express, Sky, BBC and PA. Internationally it was featured in the New York Times.

2k - deaths could be avoided in the UK if statins were prescribed to the over-50s*

5m - adults are taking statins already*

*Source: The Lancet.

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