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24.10.17

GPs failing to follow statin prescription guidelines

There are multiple oversights in the way GPs prescribe statins to patients, according to a controversial report in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP).

The study found that, despite NICE recommendations, many patients did not have the required 10-year cardiovascular (CVD) risk estimate – put in place to determine whether a patient should be given the treatment.

It was also discovered that only 35% of high-risk patients had been started on statins, whereas one in six people deemed low-risk were given the medicine, which the authors of the study say indicates overtreatment.

In response, the Royal College of General Practice (RCGP) said patients should be reassured that GPs were prescribing statins based on “the circumstances of the individual patient sitting in front of them.”

The organisation criticised the new study for not including individual patient preferences, other health conditions, or data that was not accurately coded in patient records.

However, the RCGP recognised the importance of critical studies in influencing future guidelines.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the RCGP, said: “This study emphasises the importance of calculating an accurate risk score which can then help healthcare professionals have an honest discussion with their patients about the benefits and risks which are unique to them.

“As with any drug, taking statin medication has potential side-effects, and taking any medication long-term is a substantial undertaking for patients who need to be monitored by healthcare professionals.

“Many don't want to take statins once they have learned all the facts – and GPs will respect patient choice.

“It's important that high-quality new research like this is always taken on board as guidelines for healthcare professionals are updated.”

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