Statins: the highs and the lows

Negative press seems to follow statins, the most prescribed drugs in England, despite them revolutionising cardiovascular disease prevention.



Figure 1: A decade of dispensing

Source: NHS Digital

Almost 70 million prescription items for statins were dispensed in England in 2017, up from 44 million a decade ago. However, the cost has fallen over the same period from £506m to £316m.


Figure 2: Benefits versus risks

Source: Lancet 2016;388:2532

Data from two decades of studies show that the benefits of statins outweigh their risks, particularly for those at higher risk of cardiovascular disease.


Figure 3: Trials and tribulations

From their discovery in 1976, statins have had a rollercoaster ride. Their efficacy in primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease has been proven in numerous studies, but their safety profile has also come under scrutiny, peaking in 2013 when two articles in the BMJ questioned their risk benefit ratio in low-risk individuals, sparking a media storm


Editorial advisers: Alison Warren, consultant pharmacist in cardiology, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust and Brighton and Hove clinical commissioning group; Paul Wright, lead cardiac pharmacist, St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London.


Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, September 2018, Vol 301, No 7917;301(7917):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20205512

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