Most statins prescribed to the wrong patients

West MidlandsCardiovascular
Published Date: 1 Jan 2014

Most statins prescribed to the wrong patients


  • Statins are highly effective treatments for the prevention of heart disease. Guidelines recommend the use of statins in patients who are at high risk of developing heart disease.

  • Patients who do not have heart disease, but are classified as ‘high-risk’ – patients who are older, smoke, have diabetes, higher blood pressure and cholesterol levels – should be recommended statins.
  • Statins are not recommended for patients classified as low–risk – generally younger people who are in good health.
  • However, it is not known to what extent GPs follow guidelines in routine clinical practice and what influences their prescribing decisions.


  • This research analysed 365,718 patient records from 421 general practices in the UK focusing on patients who did not already have heart disease. 
  • The records showed that only 3 in 10 high -risk patients were started on statins. Most high -risk patients missed out on treatment despite the fact that the average patient would have consulted their GP eleven times over the two year study period. 
  • At the same time, 1 in 10 low -risk patients were started on treatment, meaning that many were over -treated. 
  • During this period, over 50,000 patients were started on statins, but only 21,000 (42%) could be thought of as high -risk. 
  • Patients aged over 65 years, those with diabetes, and those who consulted their GP more frequently were more likely to be started on statins