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The mass prescription of statins is a public health disaster, says cardiologist

The mass prescription of statins is a 'public health disaster', according to a leading cardiologist.

Dr Aseem Malhotra said millions of Britons had been forced to unnecessarily suffer a host of side effects at the hands of the pills.   

Statins, which are proven to save lives, are the most widely prescribed drugs in the UK with around six million patients taking them.

They're given to people believed to have a 10 per cent or higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease or having a heart attack or stroke within the next decade.

The NHS says around one in every 50 people who take the medication for five years will avoid a serious cardiac event.

The mass prescription of statin drugs is a public health disaster, according to a leading cardiologist

Dr Aseem Malhotra claimed millions of Britons had been forced to unnecessarily suffer a host of side effects at the hands of the pills for commercial interests

But the pills are known to trigger a slew of nasty, debilitating side effects including headaches, muscle pain and nausea. 

They also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hepatitis, pancreatitis and vision problems and memory loss.

Dr Malhotra told MailOnline: 'Flawed thinking on cholesterol, scientific incompetence, commercial conflicts of interest and the unethical practice of medicine has resulted in millions of people being over-medicated on statin drugs causing a public health disaster.'

He added: '[There is] no improvement in life expectancy or reduction in cardiovascular death for millions taking the drug.

'Whilst 30 to 50 per cent get a range of debilitating side effects and one in 100 get type 2 diabetes.

'Plus, for many they’ll gain weight from illusion of protection of the drug because they think they can eat what they like.

'Even those with cardiovascular disease, taking the drugs regularly over five years only extends their life expectancy by four days.

'From my experience, up to half of my patients who take the drugs get debilitating side effects.' 

The NHS says one in 10 people suffer mild side effects, while one in 100 experience more severe symptoms.

WHY ARE STATINS CONTROVERSIAL? 

Statins are the most commonly prescribed drug in the world and an estimated 30 per cent of all adults over the age of 40 are eligible to take them.

The cholesterol-lowering drugs are given to people believed to have a 10 per cent or higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease or having a heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years. 

They are proven to help people who have suffered heart problems in the past, but experts say the thresholds may be too high, meaning benefits are outweighed by side effects for many people.  

Nearly all men exceed the 10 per cent threshold by age 65, and all women do so by age 70 – regardless of their health.

Commonly reported side effects include headache, muscle pain and nausea, and statins can also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, hepatitis, pancreatitis and vision problems or memory loss.

And Dr Rita Redberg, professor at the University of California, San Francisco told CNN in January that of 100 people taking statins for five years without having had a heart attack or stroke, 'the best estimates are that one or two people will avoid a heart attack, and none will live longer, by taking statins.' 

Previous studies have suggested that stopping taking statins, which cost as little as £20 for a year's supply, strips the patient of their protection. 

But Dr Malhotra blasted those claims, describing them as scaremongering. He added: 'Any studies claiming this are scientifically dubious. 

'They're conducted by scientists who have a strong financial links to drug industry and shld be treated with total scepticism.'

Statins work by reducing levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which flows through the arteries in blood and sticks to the walls.

This clogs them up and raises the risk of someone suffering a heart attack or stroke.

But experts in the heart field are divided on the subject and one side fears 'over-prescribing' is doing 'more harm than good'. 

They are the most commonly prescribed drug in the world and an estimated 30 per cent of all adults over the age of 40 are eligible to take them. 

The drugs are proven to help people who have suffered heart problems in the past.

But some experts say the thresholds for prescribing them may be too high, meaning benefits are outweighed by side effects for many people.

Nearly all men exceed the 10 per cent threshold by age 65, and all women do so by age 70 – regardless of their health. 

Dr Malhotra added: 'Patients needs to be told they have slim chances of seeing any benefit from the drugs, and warned about all of the side effects.' 

The drugs are prescribed to millions of Britons and are thought to save 7,000 lives a year, according to the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Roughly six million people in Britain are thought to take statins, while another six million should be taking the drugs but do not, according to estimates. 

Since 2014, all over-75s in Britain have been eligible to take statins – which cost no more than £20million a year – even if they are in perfect health.

It is estimated that up to 30million people take statins in the US. 

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