MEPs call for action on life-threatening genetic cholesterol


A report by the Cardiovascular Resource Group from 2011 found that 133.3 million people in Germany, France, Italy, Spain and the UK suffer from bad cholesterol. [Shutterstock]

Members of the European Parliament this week hosted an event in Brussels where they called for an EU-wide strategy on Familiar Hypercholesterolemia, or FH, a genetic disease characterised by uncontrolled high cholesterol.

The MEPs include Karin Kadenbach and Nessa Childers from the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), Mairead McGuinness and Cristian Silviu Bu?oi from the European People’s Party (EPP) and Frédérique Ries from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE).

At the event on Tuesday (20 October) they called on the EU to stimulate the expansion of FH screening programmes and research funding into early FH diagnosis which could come from the European Commission’s current health programme or Horizon 2020.

When signing the Call to Action, Kadenbach said she was genuinely shocked to learn that the diagnosis rate of FH can be less than 1% in some European countries, when considering the consequences of this condition if left untreated.

FH is the inherited condition of high cholesterol that researchers say is now the most common genetic disease in Europe. But many people – including doctors – in Europe have no idea what it is.

“The situation has to change. I am therefore pleased by the great support around this Call to Action, including from my colleagues in the European Parliament. This is the starting point to achieve better policies, to ensure a healthier future for our citizens,” she said.

>> Read: World Heart Day announcement: EU health information system coming soon

Apart from the European lawmakers, patient representatives from 10 EU countries, a number of medical experts and other stakeholders gathered to express their support for the Call to Action.

“High cholesterol can be independent from lifestyles and develop at a very early age,” said Jules Payne, CEO of Heart UK and chair of the newly-established European FH Patient Network. 

“European and national decision-makers have to be aware of FH, its impact and how it can be addressed. Patients and experts want to be part of the solution,” Payne said. 

Alberico Catapano, the president of the European Atherosclerosis Societiety (EAS) said he hopes the a new EU strategy could favour a coordinated approach by member states.

Familial hypercholesterolemia, or FH, is a genetic disorder characterised by high cholesterol levels which can cause cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes.

While it was previously thought that 1 in 500 of the population would have FH, researchers now believe that it is close to 1 in 250 that makes FH one of the most common heritable diseases across the globe.


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