A group of doctors has warned that drugs said to lower cholesterol could place middle-aged females at higher risk of diabetes.
The drugs, known as statins, are currently being offered to around seven million people who are at 20% risk of developing heart disease within the next decade.
The NHS was urged to offer these drugs to people with a 10% risk, earlier this year. At the time advisers claimed that there was ‘no credible argument against their safety’.
However, since then, leading clinicians have made the choice to write to Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, to warn against what they term as ‘medicalisation of millions of healthy individuals’.
They state that draft guidance issued by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is based almost completely on studies which have received funding from drug companies.
The clinicians warn that people who take these drugs are placed at risk of psychiatric problems and fatigue, while many males may suffer with erectile dysfunction.
The University of Liverpool’s Professor Simon Capewell, stated that the recommendation are particularly worrying and it is condemning middle-aged adults to a lifetime of taking medications which are questionable.
A cardiologist based in London, Dr Aseem Malhotra, said that although evidence indicates that there are distinct benefits of statins to those with heart disease, it is not the case for healthy people. He said a doctor would not be willing to give a patient without cancer chemotherapy, or prescribe insulin to someone who does not suffer from diabetes.
The director of the centre for clinical practice at NICE, Professor Mark Baker, said that the intention of the proposals were to tackle peripheral arterial disease, stroke and coronary heart disease. These diseases are responsible for about one in three deaths in the UK. He said that the independent committee consisting of experts in their field, found that if a doctor and the patient measure their risks and decide statins would help, there is no credible arguments against its clinical effectiveness and safety.
Professor Baker rejected the allegations that the advice they had given was motivated financially. He said that their committees consist of patients, clinicians and other with the necessary skills to interpret the complex data, and none of them have put their names to these recommendations in order to gain financially.
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