Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Medicine and the Media

Statins for all?

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 12 September 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e6044
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}

An epidemiologist’s call for all healthy adults over 50 to take statins was uncritically reinforced by the media without proper discussion of risks and side effects, writes Margaret McCartney

“Give statins to all over-50s. Even the healthy should take heart drug, says British expert.” This headline heralded a few days of intense media publicity, focusing on a talk given by the UK epidemiologist Rory Collins at the European Society of Cardiology congress in Munich. The Daily Mail continued in the same vein: “Currently statins only given to around eight million high-risk patients; But Professor Sir Rory Collins says healthy people can also benefit; He said evidence from 130 000 patients shows they’re safe.”1

The Geoffrey Rose lecture on population science, which Collins had delivered, is an annual event at the congress. It was publicised by means of a press notice that said that “Collins’s lecture this morning will hold out the promise of even more rapid demonstration of the benefits of adding newer cholesterol-lowering agents to the statins.”2 The Mail continued: “Prof Collins, 57, went to his GP a fortnight ago to ask about taking statins despite a relatively low cholesterol level, and was dismayed to learn …

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