Byline: By MADELEINE BRINDLEY Western Mail
A cholesterol-busting drug which can reduce the risk of heart attacks will be sold over-the-counter for the first time in Wales. Pharmacists will be allowed to sell 10mg doses of one type of statin - simvastatin - to patients without prescription.
The drug, which lowers cholesterol, can reduce the risk of heart attack by up to 27%.
It is hoped the move will help end Wales' reputation as the UK's heart attack capital.
Coronary heart disease is one of the biggest killers in Wales.
But leading Welsh cardiologists last night called for investment in NHS risk clinics to stop statins suffering from Viagra-style abuse and misuse.
They said without expert assessments people who would not benefit from taking statins may buy the drug in the belief it helps.
And they also warned that wider availability of statins should not be taken as a licence to continue leading an unhealthy life.
Professor John Cockcroft, professor of cardiology at the Wales Heart Research Institute, said, 'While I very much welcome statins being made available over the counter, we need to be careful.
'We must address the other issues otherwise it will be just like Viagra being sold on the streets of Amsterdam - it will become a lifestyle drug of abuse. Patients need the information to decide whether statins will be good for them.'
Dr Richard Greville, director of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry in Wales, added, 'The decision to change the license of a product thereby making it available as an over-the- counter product needs careful consideration.
'The balance between increasing the potential access and availability of a product to patients has to be measured against ensuring patients' safety.'
And Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the BMA's GP committee, said,
'For those patients who do need to take statins, the low dosage available over the counter may not be enough to reduce cholesterol to safe levels.'
Westminster Health Secretary John Reid yesterday announced simvastatin would be available over the counter in England and Wales after the Committee on Safety of Medicines recommended it should be available without prescription in a 10mg dose.
It is not yet known how much the drug will cost - the drug company Johnson & Johnson. …