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Propagation of myth and confusion

Much has been published as of late about statins with respect to their actual incidence of adverse effects and the highly contentious issue of the draft National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance recommending a lowering of the primary prevention threshold from 20% to 10% 10-year risk. As such, leading clinicians have written an open letter to NICE, outlining six major concerns (PJ 2014;292:628) requesting NICE to withdraw its recommendations for lowering the risk threshold for primary prevention. 

My concern is that the knock-on effect of this renewed media spotlight on statins has sparked such fierce debate in the press that it places a genuine risk to patient safety through propagation of myth and confusion. I refer to Helen Williams’s comments in the aforementioned news item in The Journal, in which she appropriately highlighted that the media spotlight will be causing significant concern to patients currently on statins or those being offered statin treatment. She stresses the importance of distinguishing between primary prevention of cardiovascular disease — which is the focus of this debate — and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease,  in which there is no doubt over the benefits of statin therapy.

The worry is that because of a lack of clarity in distinguishing the current issues surrounding primary prevention, from the well established role and benefit of statins in secondary prevention, it may deter many patients currently prescribed statins for secondary prevention from adhering to therapy. Such confusion can and no doubt will already have affected the compliance of many patients and this is something that needs to be addressed.  This is an ideal time for pharmacists, especially community pharmacists, to get involved and check the compliance of patients prescribed statins and when they come across patients who raise concerns due to what they have heard and read in the media then pharmacists should be equipped with the most up-to-date and accurate information to address those concerns.

Zeshan Ahmed

Prescribing Adviser

Care Home Medicines Management Pharmacist

NHS Enfield Clinical Commissioning Group

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 20065686

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