Statin drug wars continue

If doctors can’t agree on the usefulness and safety of statin cholesterol-lowering drugs, what are patients to conclude?

An all-out royal battle has broken out in medical journals over whether statin drugs really save lives and whether they cause more disease than they prevent.

The leader of the pro-statin drug movement is Dr. Rory Collins at the University of Oxford in Britain where he holds confidential records of statin drug trials he won’t release for review because he says he has signed confidentiality agreements with pharmaceutical companies. But if that unpublished data were positive for the statin drug makers, it wouldn’t be withheld from review. So we don’t have to guess that the drug companies are holding sway over release of negative studies. [Health Impact News Feb 18, 2015]

Dr. Collins, in a lengthy retort, says statin drug hazards are overplayed at the cost of many lives. Collins says any alleged side effects, diabetes, muscle degradation, mental issues, all which he claims are reversible, are trivial next to all the adverse cardiovascular events (strokes, heart attacks). But Dr. Collins is smart enough not to say statin drugs save lives. He knows they may prevent heart attacks, but not mortal heart attacks. [The Lancet Sept 8, 2016]

Dr. Collins says 219,000 patients in Britain stopped taking statin drugs based upon negative reports and around 2000 patients experience a heart attack that could have been prevented. [Daily Mail June 29, 2016]

According to Dr. Collins, 10,000 low-risk patients taking statin drugs for 5 years would prevent 1000 heart attacks among individuals who have had prior cardiovascular events and prevent 500 such events among patients who had not.

But that means 9500 patients out of 10,000 who are taking statin drugs for prevention would receive no benefit and only be at risk to experience side effects. In other words, 95% of patients would pay for statin drugs with no health benefit and might develop diabetes, mental confusion and muscle pain. 

Spectator Health reveals in its analysis that statin drugs add an average of 3.4 and 4.1 additional days of life when taken for primary and secondary prevention respectively, “which is hardly impressive.” [Spectator Health Sept 12, 2016]

Another factor left out of the analyses is the fact many newly prescribe statin drug users stop using the drugs due to immediate side effects and are not included in side effect ratios. Statin drugs look safer than they really are. 

So when will the drug companies lay all their cards on the table? Probably never. Cardiologists will continue to look into their patents’ eyes and tell their patients they will have a heart attack if they don’t take a statin drug. Of course, statin drugs bring patients back to their office for re-prescriptions, so cardiologists are financially influenced. 

Strikingly, another recently published study in the British Medical Journal concludes that elevated LDL-cholesterol (low density lipoproteins) is associated with a LOWER risk of cardiac death! Good God, LDL is the marker cardiologists point to in analyzing risk of mortality from heart disease. [British Medical Journal 2016]

Most heart patients would be better off taking a resveratrol pill. [Pharmaceuticals Online]

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