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I thought it was April fool’s day when I came across the story about giving away statins with fast food yesterday. But no, a quick glance at my calender revealed it was August, not April. Was this a joke, I thought?

Well no, it’s not. You’ve probably already read the news reports, but here’s a quick reminder. Dr Darrel Francis and colleagues from Imperial College London have published a paper in the American Journal of Cardiology that suggests it’s possible to cancel out the increase in heart attack risk of eating a cheeseburger and a milkshake by taking a statin – a cholesterol-lowering tablet. And they’re actually suggesting that statins could be dished out at fast food outlets, much the same as sachets of ketchup or mayo are now.

“It makes sense to make risk-reducing supplements available just as easily as the unhealthy condiments that are provided free of charge,” says Dr Francis. “It would cost less than 5p per customer – not much different to a sachet of ketchup.

“When people engage in risky behaviours like driving or smoking, they’re encouraged to take measures that minimise their risk, like wearing a seat belt or choosing cigarettes with filters. Taking a statin is a rational way of lowering some of the risks of eating a fatty meal.”

Oh come on, Dr Francis. You can’t seriously suggest that wearing a seat belt or opting for filtered fags instead of non-filtered is the same as taking a statin, can you? I mean, talk about closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. It’s almost like you’re giving people an excuse to carry on eating junk food. Surely it’s education we need, not medication?

There are some other obvious flaws in Dr Francis’ argument. For instance, statins don’t counteract the effect of all that salt found in your typical serving of junk food, which, as you probably know, can send blood pressures soaring. And as for the mega number of calories in most fast foods, well statins don’t help cancel that out either. So while your cholesterol levels may improve, carry on eating fast food and you’re still increasing your risk of heart problems, not to mention also stroke and diabetes and goodness knows what else.

There are some who believe statins are no good to those who don’t already have heart disease – something a study published in the June issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests. Surely they should only be used when doctors know you have a problem, rather than when you’ve just had more than your fair share of quarter pounders with double fries?

As Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, says: “Statins are a vital medicine for people with – or at high risk of developing – heart disease. They are not a magic bullet.”

Let’s hope common sense prevails in this particular scenario. Otherwise, what next? A free iron lung with every packet of cigarettes? Or a voucher for a new liver with every drink you buy down your local pub? God forbid…