All ills to be treated with statin pills

It may be one of the cheapest pills on the market at less than №1 a time, but it might save your life, whatever your problem. Not only does it lower cholesterol levels and sharply reduce the risk of heart problems and angina; it may have benefits for many other diseases too, from dementia, multiple sclerosis and arthritis to macular degeneration, osteoporosis and infections.

Increased life expectancy, and even enhanced cognitive skills, could also be within the repertoire of this family of drugs - called statins - whose versatility is challenging the status of aspirin as the leading cure-all. Within months, this drug could be available over the counter at the chemist's shop. So should we all take it?

"Statins are highly effective and extraordinarily safe, and I think people of 55 and over should consider taking them daily. In general, people of any age who have had a heart attack or stroke should use them,'' says Professor Nicholas Wald of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, one of the two doctors who put forward the idea of a universal Polypill earlier this year.

The prospect of "statins for all" is coming closer, with a government decision imminent on plans to make one statin drug available over the counter rather than on prescription only, inform

Older women who take cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins do not have an increased risk of breast cancer, as some research has suggested, and statins may even reduce the chances in some women, Seattle scientists have found.

In the largest study to date, researchers found that women reduced their risk of breast cancer by about 30 percent if they had taken the widely used statins for at least five years.

"We need to do more research, but these results are really encouraging," said Dr. Denise Boudreau, a researcher at Group Health Cooperative's Center for Health Studies and lead scientist in the new study. Boudreau conducted the research while at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle; it is reported in today's edition of the journal Cancer.

More than 11 million Americans, many of them older people, take statins, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Under new federal guidelines, about 36 million people would qualify for the drugs, which lower the risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes.

Cancer experts were concerned a few years ago when some limited studies in mice and humans showed an increased risk of breast cancer. In one clinical trial of a statin, 12 of about 290 women who took the drug developed breast cancer, while there was only one case among a similar number of women who did not receive the drug. Other smaller studies had mixed results, report

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