Give statins to all over-40s, says heart surgery pioneer

Front page story on statins, Sunday Telegraph, May 18, 2014

Front page story on statins, Sunday Telegraph, May 18, 2014

This article originally appeared in the Sunday Telegraph, May 18, 2014

By Robert Mendick & Ben Lazarus

Everyone over the age of 40 should take statins, the pioneering heart surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub said on Saturday.

Sir Magdi, who is believed to have carried out more heart transplants than any other surgeon, insisted that any side effects of the drugs were “very minor” compared with the benefits.

He said they should be made available for sale over the counter and without the need for a prescription.

His intervention follows a furore over a report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), which was accused of overstating the side-effects of statins by a factor of 20.

The report, based on statements by two medical experts first published in October, claimed that as many as one in five of those taking the drugs suffered ill-effects such as muscle pain, tiredness and diabetes.

In fact, large trials show that the risk of such effects on more than 100,000 people was less than 1 per cent.

The BMJ withdrew parts of the report amid fears that it could unduly scare the seven million people in the UK taking statins, which lower the level of cholesterol in the blood.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Sir Magdi, 76, a professor of cardiothoracic surgery at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, said: “I find it [the BMJ report] very upsetting because it is almost certainly going to result in people not taking statins.

The evidence for statins is “overwhelming”, he said: “The lower the cholesterol, the healthier you are and the longer you will live… The risk-benefit ratio is massively in favour of taking the drug.”

Low cholesterol prevent heart attacks, strokes, cancer and dementia, so not taking statins is “a disaster”, he said.

Statins have been around for 25 years, so we know the long-term results, what they do biochemically and how to monitor any complications, he added.

 

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