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Four million “could need drug”


An extra four million people could need cholesterol-lowering drugs as a result of the UK government’s health screening plans, a leading figure has said.

Professor Roger Boyle, the government’s national director for heart disease, said the checks announced by Health Secretary Alan Johnson are likely to boost prescriptions for statins.

About three million people in England currently take statins, with the NHS bill for the drugs being about £500m a year.

The new plan could see that cost rise considerably.

Professor Roger Boyle said the plan to offer mass screening would also radically alter the amount of people taking statins.

He said: “The number could at least double from roughly three million at the moment taking statin drugs to certainly six or seven million people.”

Statins work to cut levels of bad cholesterol and help protect against heart disease.

Most of the patients given statins as a direct result of the health checks will be doing so as a preventative measure to avoid heart disease.

Prof Boyle admitted that clinical studies have shown 99% of this group will gain no benefit from taking the drug.

The scheme means people aged 40 to 74 will be offered health checks with the aim of saving 2,000 lives a year in England.

Copyright © PA Business 2008

Department of Health

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