After the UK became the first country to make an over-the-counter statin available in 2004, George Winter delves into whether this precedent should be continued, and the various ongoing debates surrounding statin sales
An editorial in the Lancet noted that in 2004 the UK became the first country to make an over-the-counter (OTC) statin - simvastatin - available for those at moderate risk of coronary heart disease, despite no trials of OTC statins for primary heart disease having been undertaken, and in the absence of data on compliance with OTC statins (Anonymous, 2004).
Was it successful? Vamvakopoulos et al (2008) carried out a self-administered questionnaire survey of GPs, community pharmacists, and potentially eligible consumers eight months after the UK launch of OTC simvastatin. The survey found that OTC availability of statins was not considered a popular public health intervention by consumers and GPs because of a perception that the drugs would be prone to misuse, although ‘OTC availability was favoured by pharmacists, who saw this as empowering both for consumers and themselves’ Vamvakopoulos et al (2008). When Mainous et al (2010) evaluated the proportion of eligible individuals aged 20 years and over, using OTC statins, they found that ‘less than 1% of Great Britain's population were using OTC statins. Among those taking OTC statins, 71.5% were also taking prescribed lipid-lowering agents … [and] … Improving the use of statins by the target at-risk population remains an elusive goal (Mainous et al, 2010).
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