ABC's Catalyst 'putting lives at risk'

05 November, 2013

People should not change their medication or ignore their cholesterol levels, the Heart Foundation has urged, following ABC media reports questioning the benefits of statins in the treatment of heart disease.

The call comes after the recent ABC Catalyst program questioned whether cholesterol is an important risk factor for heart disease and suggested the benefits of statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs) were overstated.

Dr Lyn Roberts, the Heart Foundation's national CEO said the program has caused confusion in the community and is worried it may be putting lives at risk.

"We know patients are already contacting their GPs and health professionals, anxious about their heart health on the basis of this report," Dr Roberts said.

"The Heart Foundation and the wider medical community are concerned that people may have been misled and might stop taking their statins without consulting their doctor.

"The conclusions presented in the ABC Catalyst program are not supported by the Heart Foundation or the vast majority of the medical and scientific communities across the country and internationally.

"High cholesterol remains a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease and having multiple risk factors places you at higher risk.

"We are shocked by the disregard of the evidence and we are considering our next course of action."

Professor James Tatoulis, the Heart Foundation's chief medical adviser said after a heart attack, treatment with a statin is standard, evidence-based management.

"Cholesterol-lowering drugs, known as statins, are the most commonly prescribed drugs in Australia and are a very effective way of reducing the risk of having a heart attack, particularly for people who have heart disease," Prof Tatoulis said.

"Some of the largest studies ever conducted in medicine have demonstrated that statins decrease further heart attacks and save lives.

"Cholesterol remains an important risk factor for heart disease, but it's important to remember that it's just one risk factor and all other risks need to be considered to work out a person's overall risk of heart attack.

"The Heart Foundation recommends that cholesterol, along with other risk factors including blood pressure, BMI, family history, smoking and physical inactivity are all considered when determining someone's risk and if they need drug treatment.

"For many, their medication is life-saving but medication is never a substitute for a healthy lifestyle — we encourage all Australians to be active for 30 minutes a day, to eat healthily, be smoke-free and to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

"We want everyone to be aware of their risk factors and recommend everyone 45 and over (35 if you are Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander person) to visit their GP annually for a heart health check to calculate their risk of having a heart attack and discuss how to manage their risks with their doctor."

Heart of the Matter Part 2 - Cholesterol Drug War