High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Lowering levels of cholesterol can greatly reduce cardiac events and deaths from those events. Statins are only one strategy for the reduction.
In a meta analysis (a study that looks at many individual clinical trials), persons who were not at high risk but received statins had less heart attack deaths and events than similarly 'healthy' people who did not receive the medications.
The UK has a national health plan and it is now considering whether or not to approve these drugs as routine care for adults over age 50 who may have only a 10 to 20% increased risk of heart attack or stroke. The medications are cheap (now) and would save the government a lot of money in the long run (all those heart procedures are costly!).
The side effects, which are minimized by some of the researchers are NOT minimal to me. To be honest, not everyone experiences the side effects and the degree to which one might experience them can differ. Complications include kidney failure, muscle weakness, cataracts and diabetes. (and I suppose if one starts the medications at age 50 there is less time for these side effects to become disabling.)
It may cost the government little money to use pills and it is certainly politically and socially acceptable, but it doesn't get at the real problem. IF entire countries, and there are many, have a life style related cholesterol problem, the food system MUST be targeted or the problem will keep recurring.
I find prescribing medications to low risk adults as untenable as prescribing them to high risk ten year olds. Medication should be the last resort.
I located the story in print and share it with you here, but I want to requote another scientist. Dr. Ebrahim conducted a different study and then warned of the risk associated with side effects and over reliance on these drugs:
He questioned whether it would be good for people or society to resort to mass medication for lifestyle issues.I second that concern and raise it higher.