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Health Insight October 2002: Cardiology news: the bad and the good

  Britain has one of the highest rates of heart disease in the world, yet is so short of cardiologists that a third of all those who have a heart attack do not get to see a heart doctor. A report by the British Cardiac Society with the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) says cardiologist numbers in the UK need to be almost doubled, from 630 to 1,220; and the European directive limiting working hours means the numbers will need to rise again, to 1,500 by 2020. If this did occur, said Roger Hall the main author of the report, thousands of lives could be saved. The joint report, ‘Fifth report on the provision of services for patients with heart disease’, was commissioned at the request of RCP Past President, Professor George Alberti, and addresses clinical and surgical requirements for the future, while exploring the reasons for why there are continuing staff shortages.

Trials of a drug which could reduce the number of people having heart attacks and strokes in Britain have been halted ahead of schedule after producing outstanding results. Researchers decided the trials had been so successful that it would be unfair to continue giving some patients a dummy version of the pill. Tests on the drug, atorvastatin, were carried out at Imperial College London on nearly 20,000 patients. Results showed that the drug, produced by Pfizer under the name of Lipitor, was effective on patients who had high blood pressure, but who would not normally be given treatment because their cholesterol levels were not excessively high.

Source: Press release (RCP/British Cardiac Society), Guardian 17th October, BBC Online

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