BHF responds to new statins research

29 October 2015        

pill_in_hand Our Medical Director, Professor Peter Weissberg, is today advising people receiving the flu vaccine to continue taking their statin in response to newspaper headlines that suggest statins could reduce the vaccine’s effectiveness. 

Following two studies published in the Journal of Infectious Disease, newspapers including the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and Guardian have reported that statins may influence how well a person’s immune system responds to the flu vaccine as well the vaccine's effectiveness at preventing serious illness in older adults. However, as the researchers say, far more research is needed to conclusively prove that statins influence the vaccine. 

Our Medical Director, Professor Peter Weissberg, said: “These two studies suggest that some types of statins may reduce the effectiveness of standard influenza vaccination. However, as the researchers point out, their findings are far from conclusive and merely point to a possible issue that needs further research. 

“No one who is planning to have a flu vaccination this winter should stop taking their statin on the basis of these studies. Indeed patients with heart disease are at greater risk of a heart attack if they catch flu and therefore need the protection of their statin. It is important that patients with heart disease should be vaccinated against flu and continue to take all of their medication.”

New data on prescription of statins

A separate analysis of NHS prescribing data released by Pulse Magazine has shown that the prescribing of statins in England has changed little since the introduction of NICE guidelines last year. 

The 2014 NICE guidelines established that GPs could offer statins to a patient with a 10% risk of suffering a heart attack or a stroke over the next 10 years, however this wasn’t mandatory. Prior to this statins could only be offered to someone with a 20% or higher risk. 

Professor Weissberg explained: “It is clear that GPs have not rushed to prescribe statins for patients at a 10% ten year risk of suffering a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke, following the change in NICE guidance. 

“However, NICE did not mandate use of statins, but advised that GPs could offer statins to a patient in this risk category if they felt it necessary to help that person reduce their risk. What really matters is that GPs assess their patients’ risk and have a conversation with them about how best to reduce it, considering both lifestyle changes and medication.”

Reducing your risk of heart disease

Statins are the most commonly prescribed medicines in the UK, with millions of people taking them to lower their cholesterol and cut their risk of a heart attack or stroke. If you are concerned about your medication speak to your GP or call our Heart Helpline

Find out more about statins