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Patients who cannot tolerate statins will now be able to get a new treatment on the NHS, it has emerged.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended that Ezetimibe (ezetrol) can be used for the treatment of hypercholesterolaemia, which is characterised by high concentrations of cholesterol in the blood.
In one type – primary heterozygous-familial hypercholesterolaemia – the high levels are caused by a faulty gene and it runs in families.
A second, more common type – primary non-familial hypercholesterolaemia – is where genetic factors combine with a person’s lifestyle habits, such as poor diet, smoking and a lack of exercise, to cause high cholesterol levels.
NICE said that Ezetimibe works by inhibiting the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine, unlike statins which inhibit the production of cholesterol in the liver.
About 150,000 might benefit from the drug, according to the watchdog. There are about 3.5 million people on statins in the UK.
Ezetimibe is designed for people who would normally be given statins but cannot take them because of health reasons or because they cannot tolerate them.
Andrew Dillon, chief executive of NICE, said: “Today’s guidance is good news for those patients who are unable to achieve their target cholesterol levels using a statin alone, and good news for healthcare professionals who now have more choice about how they manage this significant risk factor.”
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