Cholesterol-lowering drug sold over the counter overseas

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Britain will be the first country to permit over-the-counter sales of the low-dose cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin, the government said Wednesday. The drug is for people who have 30% risk for a heart attack in the next 10 years. No date was announced for when the drugs will hit the counters there.

The drug, marketed as Zocor by Merck & Co. of Whitehouse Station, N.J., belongs to a class of drugs called statins. The drug's side effects are usually mild and temporary, mostly involving muscle aches and headaches. The tablet, however, will have no effect on smokers – and smoking is the greatest risk factor for heart disease.

Simvastatin is still are available only by prescription in the United States.