Full programme transcript >>
In this episode of Case Notes, Dr Mark Porter investigates statins, the family of cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Around 3 million people in the UK are currently thought to be taking a statin to reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke, and according to the latest guidelines, at least as many again should be on one, but aren’t.
Mark looks into allegations that the benefits of statins have been overblown and the downsides, including possible painful side-effects, have been glossed over.
His guest in the studio is Dr Sarah Jarvis a GP with a special interest in cardiovascular disease, and spokesperson for the Royal College of General Practitioners.
Statins for the young
It’s not surprising that it’s older people who are at the highest risk of heart attacks and strokes, and who therefore make up the majority of people taking statins.
Some doctors argue, however, that people with very high cholesterol levels should start taking statins at an earlier age, before the risk of a heart attack becomes significant.
Mark talks to Dr Barbara Hutton, a clinical epidemiologist at the University of Amsterdam, who has been investigating the use of statins in childhood.
Professor Tom Sanders, Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics at King’s College, London, also discusses concerns that if one of the key enzymes in cholesterol production is inhibited by taking statins, others systems in the body may be affected.
Alternatives to statins
Some patients can’t cope with the levels of statins they need to reduce their cholesterol, and others can’t tolerate them at all.
Mark visits the Royal Free Hospital in London where a drug called ezetimibe, an alternative to statins, is being used, to talk to doctors and patients involved in the project.
Next week: Childhood Burns