Late last year, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) came up with a complex mathematical formula for determining a patient’s risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. And if you have more than a paltry 7.5 percent risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke in the next decade, they say you should start taking a cholesterol-lowering statin drug. Regardless of your cholesterol level!
If doctors actually begin to implement these outrageous new guidelines, it means a staggering 70 percent more healthy men and women will “qualify” to take a statin drug.
But many experts, including Harvard Medical School professor Dr. John Abramson, came out strongly against the new guidelines. Abramson even coauthored a terrific OP-ED response piece in the New York Times called “Don’t Give More Patients Statins.”
More recently, Abramson and a team of researchers revieweddata from an important statin study called the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ (CTT) Collaboration. They found that 20 percent of men and women who take statin drugs discontinue them because of serious side effects. Such as muscle pain, diabetes, hepatitis, cataracts, sexual dysfunction, decreased energy, and fatigue.
Abramson and his team published their findings in the British Medical Journal. And they questioned whether men and women not at high risk of heart disease should take statin drugs at all.
But whenever medical researchers question a drug–regarding its side effects or whether it should even be used in the first place–you can guarantee proponents of the drug will retaliate…with a vengeance!
Indeed, as soon as the Abramson paper came out, statin proponents quickly went on the offensive. They argued that only 9 percent of statin patients actually discontinue the drug because of side effects. And they sought a retraction from Abramson.
In the end, Abramson and his team did withdraw their statement about the percentage of patients who experience treatment-related adverse events.
But the numbers aren’t that different. Whether it’s one in five patients who suffer side effects serious enough to make them stop (20 percent) …or only about one in 10 (9 percent)…it really doesn’t matter all that much. Either way, it still adds up to millions of men and women experiencing harmful side effects. Plus, just because a patient didn’t stop taking the drug, it doesn’t mean they aren’t suffering real and troubling side effects– and living with it.
Furthermore, the finding about side effects was a secondary point in Abramson’s paper. The key finding was that statins failed to reduce mortality among people who had less than a 20 percent risk of developing cardiovascular disease over the following 10 years. In other words, for men and women who have less than a 20 percent risk of developing cardiovascular disease, the drugs are useless.
(Abramson and his team did not retract this important finding about lack of efficacy. Statin proponents didn’t try to argue against the point either. They know it’s true. We all know it’s true!)
But remember, according to the outrageous, new AHA/ACC guidelines, if a patient has more than a paltry 7.5 percent risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke in the next decade, he or she should start taking a statin drug. Regardless of their cholesterol score.
So here’s the conundrum…
If the vast majority of men and women who take statin drugs have less than a 20 percent risk of developing cardiovascular disease over the next 10 years…and we know statin drugs don’t lower cardiovascular risk for this category of patients…why are they taking the drugs at all?
It makes no sense. And the pharmaceutical industry knows it. So they get everyone worked up about whether it’s 20 percent or “only” 9 percent of patients who suffer side effects. And they get us to gloss over the real issue…that the drugs don’t work for their intended purpose! That’s a trick worthy of the best magician.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about another dangerous illusion that results from the use of statins…namely, that taking a statin drug allows you to have “looser” dietary and lifestyle habits.
This false sense of security appears to lead many statin-takers to eat more empty calories and more junk food. Of course, anyone who makes these poor dietary choices will gain weight and increase their risk of heart disese and several chronic diseases…whether or not they take a statin drug.
Tomorrow, I’ll explain more about this growing problem of “statin gluttony.” So stay tuned.
1. “Don’t Give More Patients Statins” New York Times, (www.nytimes.com) 11/13/13
2. “Should people at low risk of cardiovascular disease take a statin?” BMJ 2013;347:f6123