More than 12,000 people in Britain are needlessly suffering heart attacks every year because they aren't taking their statins, a study suggests.
The daily pills, which slash bad cholesterol levels, are proven to save thousands of lives each year and are doled out to millions of patients worldwide.
But researchers warn many patients prescribed the drugs aren't sticking to their doctors' advice to ensure they take them each day.
Scientists now say patients should be given stronger doses of statins to ensure that they receive the full benefit of the cheap pills.
The suggestion comes from researchers based at Imperial College London and the University of Leicester, who conducted the trial.
They looked at the use of the drugs in around 16,700 people who had already suffered cardiovascular events, such as a heart attack or stroke.
An analysis of the data found just 48 out of 1,000 patients suffer a heart attack if they take stronger statins once a day.
In comparison, the real figure is around 72 out of 1,000 patients taking statins - thought to cost the NHS around £2 a month per patient.
The experts therefore concluded that taking more powerful drugs, and sticking to them, could cut a patient's risk of a heart attack.
Lead author Professor Kausik Ray said: 'The basic message here is that long-term adherence achieves better long-term cholesterol reductions.
'In terms of risk reduction, we can see the people who do the best are those who are adhering to the recommended dosage and are on more potent drug regimens.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) advises liberally prescribing the drugs.
'But if someone is not going to take a treatment as recommended, they may actually be better off on higher doses of statins.'
Read more: More than 12,000 people have suffered heart attacks because they forgot to take their daily statin – as experts say a stronger pill should be taken so health effects last longer
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