DRUGS to lower cholesterol should be prescribed far more widely because they significantly cut the rate of heart attacks and strokes even in low-risk patients, researchers say.
In an analysis of 27 studies, University of Sydney researchers found the risk of cardiovascular deaths was reduced by 15 per cent in low-risk patients who took the drugs, called statins, compared with those who did not.
The patients were considered to have a less than a 10 per cent risk of having a heart attack or stroke within five years, and are not recommended for statin treatment under current guidelines. But the researchers, from the National Health and Medical Research Council clinical trials centre, said the reduction in cardiovascular deaths achieved in the low-risk group was similar to that for high-risk patients.
The findings prompted them to call for a review of clinical guidelines so that low-risk patients were prescribed statins where lifestyle modifications such as diet and exercise failed to lower their cholesterol.