[Pounds sterling]7OM BILL AS GPs DOLE OUT HEART DRUGS WE DON'T NEED; One in Five Scots Is on Anti-Cholesterol Pills
Byline: Julie-Anne Barnes
SCOTLAND'S doctors are handing out hundreds of thousands of cholesterol lowering drugs to patients who may not need them.
Almost one in five Scots is being prescribed statins at a cost of [pounds sterling]70 million a year to the NHS, experts warned last night.
Increasing evidence suggests that widespread use of the drugs does little to help people with no history of heart disease.
Recent research has also raised fears that people receiving statins are more likely to develop diabetes.
It is estimated that 750,000 patients every year take the drugs, a 60 per cent increase over the past decade.
Experts, however, have now urged caution in the use of statins as a preventive measure among people at low risk of cardiovascular disease.
The most accurate medical test for identifying those who actually need the drugs was only introduced north of the Border in 2003.
As a result, hundreds of thousands of patients could now be taking the 'lifelong therapy' drug needlessly.
Last night, a spokesman for the charity Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland said GPs carry out a special examination on patients before offering statins.
This test, which was introduced only eight years ago, uses information about a patient's cholesterol level, height, weight and even their postcode to calculate a 'score'. This is used to determine if the drugs should be prescribed.
Low dose statins are also available without a prescription from pharmacies.
Last night, critics said GPs were too quick to offer statins rather than encourage lifestyle changes. Margaret Watt of the Scotland Patients Association said: 'I think there are many people who think they need to take them because their mother or father have a heart problem. I think they should change their lifestyle to help their risk factors. By dishing out drugs willy-nilly we are creating patients for the future.'
Scottish Government figures show the number of prescriptions for cardiovascular disease increased by 61 per cent in a decade, from 15.3 million in 2001 to 24. …