6. Example - Cardiovascular medicines

There are many cardiovascular diseases for which chemical medicines play an important role, both in treatment and prevention. One of the most common types of medicine used in this setting is from the chemical class of molecules called statins (1).

These medicines lower cholesterol levels in the blood, which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Statins are effective and have been widely used since their introduction in the late 1980s. They generally have good side-effect profiles, but there is still some risk of side effects, including muscle problems and the potential for diabetes mellitus to develop. Many different types of statins are available and doctors will select the most appropriate based on effectiveness, risk of side effects and cost. But researchers say the absolute benefit or risk depends on each person's own health and risk factors (baseline characteristics) and should always be determined individually. Other cardiovascular medicines include the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, which are used to reduce blood pressure, another risk factor for cardiovascular disease. These agents have been used for several decades and are an important first-line treatment for managing high blood pressure. Side effects can include a dry cough, dizziness and headache.

In general, cardiovascular medicines are intended to achieve long-term results and thus treatment is taken over a long time period. Given that the medicine is generally taken as a tablet, it does not inconvenience patients with regular hospital visits, although the effects of the medicine have to be assessed regularly by a doctor or nurse, who will record changes in blood pressure.

(1) Access the Article BMJ 2019 - Statins for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease: an overview of systematic reviews by Paula Byrne, John Cullinan, Amelia Smith and Susan M Smith