Britain, the "statins capital" of Europe, prescribes the most of the cholesterol-lowering medications, researchers say.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development analyzed data from 23 industrialized nations. The study found Australia had the highest level of statins prescribed at 137 daily doses per 1,000 people per day, followed by Britain at 130 daily doses per 1,000 people per day and Slovakia at 130 daily doses per 1,000 people per day, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The medications, which cost the British National Health Service about 16 cents per pill, are prescribed to about 8 million people.
Valerie Paris, an economist from the OECD's health division, said the reason Britain prescribes the most of this type of medication may be due to physicians being given financial incentives to identify and treat heart disease as part of pay contracts that reward doctors for identifying and treating a list of diseases.
In October, the British Medical Journal reported some cardiologists such as Dr. John D. Abramson, clinical instructor of primary care at Harvard Medical School in Boston, suggested instead of just prescribing the medication to all patients at the age of 50, as some do, doctors should prescribe lifestyle changes to reduce heart disease risk including healthy diets, exercise and smoking cessation.
Research found as many as 20 percent of patients taking these type drugs have some side effect including muscle aches, memory disturbance, cataracts and diabetes, the Telegraph said.
The OECD report found while Britain had 13 percent of its population on statins, France had 9 percent and Germany had 7 percent. The United States, estimated to have 15 percent of adults on statins, was not included in the study.
Included in the study were: Belgium, Norway, Denmark, Luxembourg, Canada, Netherlands, Hungary, Finland, Slovenia, Czech Republic, France, Spain, Portugal, Iceland, Sweden, Italy, Germany, South Korea, Estonia, Chile.