Earlier this month, cholesterol-lowering statin drugs made headlines again. You may have seen the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force’s (USPSTF) ridiculous recommendation that doctors should consider everyone over age 40 for these drugs — regardless of whether they have any indication of having heart disease. This recommendation would vastly increase the potential pool of statin users.
Mainstream recommendations still stuck in the dark ages
Over the past five years, I’ve probably written a hundred Daily Dispatches about the emerging research on statin drugs. These toxic drugs artificially lower cholesterol in the body by disrupting a critical metabolic process. They cause a slew of side effects — ranging from muscle weakness to cataracts to memory problems. We also now know the drugs even cause Type II diabetes. They don’t, however, lower heart disease risk as they’re supposed to.
For a while there, I actually thought we were making good progress against statin drugs in the war of public opinion. Doctors began speaking out about the drugs’ harms. Study after study proved cholesterol isn’t the be-all, end-all of heart disease. We even found out that big pharma manipulated the statistics on statin drugs, making them appear more beneficial, and with fewer side effects, than they really are. Plus, we learned those early clinical trials on statins didn’t follow patients long enough to reveal all the disastrous, long-term side effects of a lifetime taking these metabolic poisons.
But, with the USPSTF’s latest recommendation, we took a major step backward. Worse yet, the American College of Cardiology (ACA) and the American Heart Association (AHA) also support this new guideline.
These three organizations miss the mark in other ways too…
All three organizations still recommend men and women restrict foods containing cholesterol, salt, and saturated fat in order to reduce their heart disease risk. Perhaps this erroneous approach stems from the fact that the food industry heavily subsidizes the AHA through its meaningless “heart check” program. Meanwhile, anyone who cared to look at the real science has known for decades that these absurd dietary restrictions do NOT reduce heart disease risk.
To be fair, the ACC and AHA modified their position in 2013 and began to recommend doctors take a more comprehensive view of heart disease. They said doctors should also consider excess body weight, blood pressure, and lifestyle factors, instead of just measuring cholesterol levels before recommending statin therapy.
But what does it matter…when, in the end, they still recommend more people take more statin drugs?
All three organizations also totally ignore the science about the importance of controlling chronic inflammation, which damages the heart and blood vessels. They also ignore the science about the importance of controlling damaging homocysteine by increasing B vitamin levels. And of course, they never acknowledge the benefits of optimal vitamin and mineral nutrition for heart disease.
To its credit, the USPSTF showed some reserve in characterizing the “benefits” of taking these drugs. And it put a greater emphasis on the patient’s age in determining who might benefit from taking these dangerous drugs.
Still, they said statin drug “benefits” may outweigh the risks for anyone with just a 10 percent increased risk of heart attack or stroke. But, unlike the ACC-AHA drug cartel, they did not recommend anyone with only a 7.5 percent or less increased risk of heart attack or stroke take the drugs.
The USPSTF also recognizes the study I reported on three years ago from JAMA that found older people do not benefit in any way from taking statins. As a result of that study, many gerontologists stopped prescribing statins to their patients over 70.
More conflicting advice confuses patients
Dr. Francis Collins, the Director of National Institutes of Health, says statin drugs are “a force for good,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. But this political scientist is hardly an expert on heart disease.
Real experts know better.
Drs. Rita Redberg and Mitchell Katz, the editor and deputy editor of JAMA Internal Medicine, recently published a sobering editorial, pointing out that doctors already overprescribe these drugs. (JAMA Internal Medicine began reporting the truth about statins three years ago — at about the time we learned that big pharma manipulated the early data from clinical trials.) They say doctors don’t take the disastrous side effects, which I mentioned earlier, seriously enough. They also point out that reports of adverse side effects are incomplete — so the dangers may be even worse than we realize.
Drs. Redberg and Katz also suggest that the industrial-academic-medical complex grossly inflated the drugs’ benefits. Ultimately, they say the drugs are “weak” interventions for heart disease.
So, why do so many doctors and experts still consider these useless drugs as the “first line” strategy for heart disease when other strong, science-based approaches to heart health work so much better?
Around the world, doctors show much more restraint in recommending statins. In the U.K., for example, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence recommends lifestyle modifications before offering statin drugs.
But in the U.S., big pharma’s cunning counter-attacks in the war of public opinion continue to drown out the increasing scientific evidence against these drugs.
An astounding 32 million Americans already take a statin drug. And that number could grow by another 24 million if doctors follow the USPSTF’s new recommendation.
In the end, lowering cholesterol is a questionable pursuit. In fact, half the people who die of heart disease have “normal” cholesterols levels. So the answers to preventing and reversing heart disease clearly lie elsewhere.
You can learn more about the proven, drug-free approaches to preventing and treating heart disease in my special report The Insider’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy and Statin-Free Life.
“Statins for Primary Prevention: The Debate Is Intense, but the Data Are Weak,” JAMA Internal Medicine (www.jamanetwork.com) 11/12/2016