A new review – led by England's chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge and newly appointed medical director of primary care Dr Nikita Kanani – will determine how high-dose statins can be “safely available” over the counter, NHS England announced yesterday (September 4).
Dr Kanani and Dr Ridge’s findings will be presented to manufacturers and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – which “will have the final say” on whether high-dose statins should be moved from prescription-only to pharmacy (P) medicine status.
Speaking at the Health and Care Innovation Expo event in Manchester yesterday, NHS chief executive Simon Stevens said: “The NHS will now work with the MHRA and industry to see how we can best make this happen.”
“Highly trained health professionals”
“Pharmacists are highly trained health professionals, who are greatly valued by patients,” Mr Stevens said. As the NHS looks to combat the risk of heart attacks and stroke, “it makes sense to consider whether there are a broader range of medicines that patients could access conveniently and locally on the high street”.
Making high-dose, cholesterol-lowering drugs available over the counter “could prevent thousands more deaths and countless more heart attacks and strokes”, NHS England claimed.
Dr Ridge said: “Hundreds of thousands of people could benefit if industry committed more research and investment in bringing high-dose statins to the high street, and the NHS is going to be driving forward these efforts, as we save thousands of lives from deadly heart attacks and strokes as part of our long-term plan.”
Commenting on the announcement, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) director of NHS services Alastair Buxton said it “is good to hear” Mr Stevens “speaking so positively about the skills of community pharmacists”.
“We are keen to work with NHS England to explore the potential for pharmacies to provide statins without the need for patients to obtain a prescription from their GP,” Mr Buxton added.
However, Royal College of General Practitioners chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said GPs “have concerns about making these drugs more easily accessible without a prescription”.
GPs only prescribe these when it is in the “best interest of patients” and after they have “a frank conversation” with them about statins-associated risks, she added.
Earlier this week (September 3), NHS England announced that from October 1, pharmacies will start piloting a new heart check service as part of the five-year funding contract.
PSNC told C+D that the service is “still in the planning stages” and NHS England has not yet chosen the pharmacies that will pilot it.