A health watchdog is calling for GPs to help identify an extra 1.5 million patients who could benefit from cholesterol-lowering drugs.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued guidance to doctors to help them identify people at risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) who might benefit from statins.
Around four million people in England and Wales are taking statins, said NICE spokesman Philip Ranson, but an extra 1.5 million could benefit, saving thousands of lives every year.
The drugs lower cholesterol, cutting the chance of people suffering CVD, which is a leading cause of ill-health and death in the UK and accounted for 124,000 deaths in 2005.
People aged 40-75 are likely to be at higher risk of the disease, as are those who smoke, have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
The NICE guidance urges doctors to look at these risk factors in people aged 40-75 using information contained in their GP records.
"This guideline will provide much needed clarity for healthcare professionals, many of whom report uncertainty in how to manage blood lipids in patients both with and without pre-existing cardiovascular disease," said NICE deputy chief executive Dr Gillian Leng.