Statin Benefits Overstated?

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Going on a statin to reduce cholesterol has long felt like an inevitability to me, since I have a family history of high cholesterol.  But what’s odd is that cardiovascular disease is not what ultimately ‘gets’ my relatives.  So that got me to wondering why lowering my LDL and overall cholesterol is so important.

Serendipitously, my friend Tina posted a comment with a link to an enlightening 2008 article in Business Week: Do Cholesterol Drugs Do Any Good? In this excerpt the author, John Carey, states that statins DO help people who have cardiovascular issues, but for those who simply have high cholesterol but no current cardiovascular disease, statins do NOT appear to offer health benefits.

“…the drugs (statins) can be life-saving in patients who already have suffered heart attacks, somewhat reducing the chances of a recurrence that could lead to an early death. But Wright had a surprise when he looked at the data for the majority of patients, like Winn, who don’t have heart disease. He found no benefit in people over the age of 65, no matter how much their cholesterol declines, and no benefit in women of any age. He did see a small reduction in the number of heart attacks for middle-aged men taking statins in clinical trials. But even for these men, there was no overall reduction in total deaths or illnesses requiring hospitalization—despite big reductions in “bad” cholesterol. “Most people are taking something with no chance of benefit and a risk of harm,” says Wright.

Reading the entire article reveals a clear divide in the medical community: some feel strongly that statins like Lipitor should be used to prevent heart disease, while others no longer agree.

Let them argue all they want: I’ve got 4 months to see if my go Lo-Co diet and exercise changes can reduce my cholesterol — and I can take myself right out of the medical debate.

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3 thoughts on “Statin Benefits Overstated?

  1. That Business Week article was scary. I’ve been taking a statin for close to a year — it’s an old one called Pravastatin because I had trouble taking Lipitor. It’s definitely lowered my cholesterol level, which wasn’t that high, but I had taken a test that detected mild plaque in my arteries. I don’t like taking medication, especially since my friend Bruce said that he had to go off statins because of muscle pain in his knee, which still hasn’t gone away. My brother-in-law, a research scientist who specializes in diseases, says that you can get ALS disease from statins (he says they’ve proven this in England). After reading your blog, I’m going to do further research. By the way, one good effect your blog is having on me — my eating habits — I just ate a can of sardines.
    Sari

  2. I had NO idea such a debate existed. It makes me think that there is a double standard in medicine–a standard for men’s health, which gets a lot of media attention–and an entirely different one for women–which is almost invisible. Otherwise, why wouldn’t this really important information not be common knowledge? My doc wanted to put me on a statin, even though I have low bad cholesterol and high good cholesterol!! Even she doesn’t have this information that taking a statin isn’t necessarily a good thing.

    I read a lot about health and diet issues and I had never read the information in the Business Week article. My assumption was that lowering cholesterol through any means possible would produce direct benefits.

    Thanks for sharing this important info. Guess I’ll go by some sardines, too. Blech.

  3. Statins are very profitable. What is considered normal range of cholesterol has been lowered from 220 to 200 to 180. What is recommended for some people is cholesterol levels that can ONLY be obtained with statins. Much of the research supporting the use of statins is paid for by the companies producing the drugs. Highly suspect, in my way of thinking.
    Notice that even in men who had previously suffered heart attacks, the statins did not decrease overall deaths, just another heart attack. Some of those deaths may very well have been caused by strokes, a known risk of statin drug usage.
    Unless you have a rare genetic disease, it’s very easy to lower your cholesterol into the normal range, get the ratio between HDL and LDL righted, and lower your triglycerides.
    Eat LOTS of good fats (butter, olive oil, palm oil, peanut oil, and best of all, coconut oil), take a natural cod liver oil supplement, cut out transfats (most salad oils and all shortenings), eat whole foods like beef, pork, chicken, vegetables, fruits, and eliminate refined starches and sugars.

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