Statins safe and effective when prescribed appropriately – but implications for overdiagnosis and GP workload must be considered

Responding to the announcement of new draft guidance from NICE on use of statins, Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

"There is a good research base that shows statins are safe and effective at reducing the risk of cardiovascular conditions, such as stroke and heart attacks, when prescribed appropriately. GPs are highly trained to prescribe statins within clinical guidelines and in conversation with patients. Long term statin therapy, however, won't be suitable or desirable for everyone, and a decision to prescribe them will never be taken lightly.

"On a daily basis, GPs and their staff teams are encouraging people to improve their health and reduce their cardiovascular risk through changes to their diet, not smoking, and taking plenty of exercise. It is imperative that we do not overtreat and over medicalise people. Clinicians must look beyond a risk calculator to measure someone's risk of developing a certain condition – considering all the various factors potentially impacting on a patient's health.

"The College looks forward to examining the draft NICE guidelines and the evidence behind them and contributing the views of our members during the consultation stage. GPs need to be convinced that this change in the guidelines is going to be good for our patients. It must also be remembered that GPs are currently under immense pressure of work, and the NICE guidelines, if eventually approved, will result in considerable addition to this workload."

Further information

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Notes to editors

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 54,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.