Studies funded by the pharmaceutical industry influenced the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) to propose new guidelines that would dramatically increase the number of people taking cholesterol-lowering statin medication in the name of cardiovascular disease prevention, leading doctors warned the Health Secretary. These recommendations would increase the number of Europeans taking statins from 7 million to 12 million, unnecessarily exposing millions of people to “worrying” consequences, critics say.
NHS has followed in the footsteps of the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, which earlier this year introduced new guidelines for the treatment of cholesterol in the United States. The new guidelines, which would increase the number of Americans eligible for statin therapy by 13 million, were met with skepticism by medical professionals.
Statin drugs, which include the widely prescribed Lipitor, are designed to lower cholesterol levels and prevent heart attacks, strokes and death caused by cardiovascular disease. The drugs have been associated with serious side effects including muscle weakness, muscle damage, and liver problems. They have also been linked to depression, fatigue, and erectile dysfunction. Statins can also increase blood sugar levels, particularly in post-menopausal women, putting users at risk for type 2 diabetes.
In a letter to the NHS Health Secretary, a group of UK medical professionals, including the head of the Royal College of Physicians, said the National Institute for Health and Care (NICE) panel responsible for creating the guidelines has “direct financial ties” to pharmaceutical companies that make statin medications. The group is urging the Health Secretary to ban those with “industry conflicts” from having a say in the guidelines.
A NICE representative responded to these concerns: “The conflicts of interest declared by committee members involved in producing this guideline have been managed appropriately. They have not influenced in any way the draft recommendations on the use of statins.”
NICE plans to have a final recommendation on the guidelines next month after public consultation.
Source: The Telegraph