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GPs defend practice on prescribing statins

CMO calls for independent review to tackle public’s loss of trust in doctors and scientists

Lousie Prime

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

GP leaders have insisted this morning that patients’ wellbeing is always at the heart of their prescribing practice, including that for statins, as the BBC reported the Chief Medical Officer’s concerns that patients were starting to lose their belief in doctors’ and scientists’ trustworthiness.

The BBC revealed this morning that its Radio Four programme File on 4 had obtained a copy of a letter that Dame Sally Davies wrote in February to Professor Sir John Tooke, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences. In it, said the BBC, she had told him she was very concerned that the public was starting to view doctors and scientists as ‘untrustworthy’, citing in particular recent debates over whether or not people at low risk of cardiovascular disease should be prescribed statins, and the controversy over the anti-viral medicine Tamiflu.

The BBC said the CMO wrote: “There seems to be a view that doctors over-medicate so it is difficult to trust them, and that clinical scientists are all beset by conflicts of interest from industry funding and are therefore untrustworthy too.” It said she called for an independent review into the safety and efficacy of medicines, which begins tomorrow and should report by the end of the year.

In its response, the Royal College of GPs insisted that GPs’ focus will always be the wellbeing of the individual patient. College chair Professor Maureen Baker said: “The ongoing debate about the advantages and disadvantages of medication such as statins has caused concern amongst the public, but it is important that patients don’t panic – and that they keep taking any medication prescribed by their family doctor.

“The main focus of the GP is always the wellbeing of the individual patient and patients should be reassured that we will prescribe medication only when necessary and where other alternatives have been explored.”

She went on: “We have an ageing population and more patients are presenting with complex and multiple conditions. Prescribing is a core skill for GPs and we will use treatments such as cholesterol-lowering medications to reduce the risk of patients developing more serious conditions. But we have to adhere to strict and robust monitoring systems and ensure that we keep our prescribing skills up to date to provide the safest possible patient care.

“It is important that patients can have confidence in the safety and effectiveness of medications that are being used, right across the health service, and the intervention of the Chief Medical Officer is welcome and timely.

“We are pleased that she will be calling on the expertise of the RCGP in taking this work forward.”

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