Looks like more experimenting on children
Statins should be given to thousands of children by the age of 10 under radical new NHS guidance.
GPs are being urged to identify those who have an inherited risk of high cholesterol, amid warnings that the vast majority of cases are going undetected.
Estimates suggest up to 260,000 people – including 50,000 children – are suffering from genetic deficts which affect the body’s ability to break down cholesterol.
New guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) today says statins should be offered to such cases, to reduce their risk of heart or stroke in midlife.
Just 15 per cent of those with the condition are being treated for it, Nice said, including just 600 of 56,000 children with the genetic problem.
Family doctors are being asked to trawl records to identify those with very high cholesterol levels.
Where levels of more than 9 mmol/l are found in those over 30, and those of 7.5 mmol/l are found in those under 30, high-dose statins should be offered, the NHS guidance states.
And it says gene tests should be used to find other family members – including those below the age of 10 – who are at such heightened risk that they should be put on medication.
Around 56,000 children are estimated to suffer from familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), yet just 600 have been diagnosed, charities say.
The condition gives men a 50 per cent chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke before the age of 50, while women have a one in three chance by the age of 60.
Siblings and children of those with the defects have a 50 per cent risk of having the condition.
Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for guidelines at Nice, said: “Familial hypercholesterolaemia is a serious, often undiagnosed but relatively common condition which, if treated early, ideally in childhood, will not affect normal life expectancy for the majority of people with it.
“Starting on the right treatment, usually with a high-intensity statin, as soon as possible is important, but only a fraction of people with the condition know they have it.
“It’s also important that family members of people diagnosed with FH are traced and offered a gene test to see if they also have the condition and therefore need treatment.”
Around eight milllion people in the UK are on statins, and Nice guidance already suggests around 40 per cent of all adults should take the drugs, to cut their risk of heart disease.
But the new advice is aimed at those whose genetic risk is far higher than hat of the wider population.
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said the guidance could save lives.
“It’s disappointing that we have the ability to diagnose and treat people with FH, yet 85 per cent remain undiagnosed and at risk of a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke,” he said.
Treatment of the condition is lifelong, and sufferers are asked to adopt a healthy lifestyle, as well as taking statins.
The Nice guideline recommends that doctors should aim for at least a 50 per cent reduction in LDL-C (or “bad” cholesterol) concentration.
Charity Heath UK said the plans did not go far enough, calling for a “national screening programme” to identify those at risk.
Chief executive Jules Payne said: “GPs do not routinely carry out cholesterol tests in most patients until they reach the age of 40 when they are eligible for an NHS Health Check. Therefore there are many invisible patients with FH who are at risk.”