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Millions of people with cardiovascular disease could benefit from new cholesterol treatment

Cholesterol treatment will be available in GPs and other primary care centres to prevent further heart attacks or strokes.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has set new targets for up to 2.1 million people with CVD who have suffered a heart attack or stroke.

Patients with heart diseases could be given higher doses of statins or extra drugs to reduce cholesterol levels. NICE estimates that up to 145,000 heart attacks, strokes and premature deaths could be prevented over the next decade if people's cholesterol levels were lowered.

For the first time, the guidance sets a target of keeping a person's low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol – often known as bad cholesterol – levels at 2.0 mmol per litre or less, or non-HDL cholesterol levels of 2.6 mmol per litre or less.

‘Improving the control of cholesterol in a larger number of people will further reduce deaths from heart attacks and strokes. This guideline will help clinicians talk through the options with their patients to achieve the best outcomes,’ said Professor Jonathan Benger, chief medical officer at NICE.

CVD is the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 31 per cent of all global deaths. Public Health England figures show that it is the cause of 1 in 4 deaths in England, and yearly healthcare costs relating to CVD are estimated at £7.4 billion.

Monitoring of cholesterol levels usually takes place in primary care and the decision to prescribe an additional treatment will be taken by a GP and other primary care clinicians in discussion with the patient.

Dr Shahed Ahmad, NHS national clinical director for cardiovascular disease prevention welcomed this guidance. ‘The introduction of target cholesterol levels and timely treatment will provide welcome clarity for both NHS clinical teams and their patients.’