The New York Times runs the slogan, “all the news that’s fit to print” on its masthead.
And on April 3, 2016, The Times finally saw fit to print an impartial review of a new, expensive cholesterol-lowering drug by Eli Lilly called evacetrapib.
The headline ran, “Dashing Hopes, Study Shows a Cholesterol Drug Had No Effect on Heart Health.”
Of course, I have been telling you for years, drugs that artificially lower cholesterol are a disaster. Nevertheless — I have to hand it to The Times; I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Of course, my colleague, the intrepid reporter Gina Kolata, wrote the piece. I got to know Gina about 25 years ago when she came to me looking for a credible source who wasn’t drinking from the Kool-Aid doled out by mainstream medicine. And apparently, she still “boldly goes” beyond where other science journalists go.
In the new study, patients who took evacetrapib saw their levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol plummet, and they doubled their levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Indeed, execs at Eli Lilly had high hopes for evacetrapib, which belongs to a new class of drugs called CETP inhibitors, because they thought it might be a good alternative for all the people who can’t tolerate taking statins.
So how did the drug impact heart health?
Among those taking the drug, 256 patients still had heart attacks, compared to 255 heart attacks in people on placebo. So the evacetrapib group suffered one extra heart attack for their trouble.
Poor results stun researchers
These grim results stunned Dr. Stephen J. Nicholls, the study’s principle investigator. He said, “We had an agent that seemed to do all the right things. It’s the most mind-boggling question. How can a drug that lowers something that is associated with benefit not show any benefit?”
But Gina also understands we must get past Dr. Nicholls’ kindergarten characterizations of what’s good and bad when it comes to cholesterol and heart health. And the ultimate goal of these drugs, to improve heart health, wasn’t met at all.
Yes, cholesterol levels fell all right in people who took the drug. But as many have been warning for decades, cholesterol is not the end-all and be-all of heart health. In fact, other studies show low cholesterol is a sign of poor nutrition, is a risk for cancer and other chronic diseases, and is associated with shorter longevity.
Entire class of drugs is a problem
Not surprisingly — two other new drugs from the same class of CETP inhibitors also failed. One, which lowered LDL cholesterol by 20 percent, had toxic side effects. The other drug raised HDL cholesterol, but it had no effect on LDL cholesterol (as if that were the only criterion).
Gina quoted Dr. Steven Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic in the article as saying, “These kinds of studies are wake-up calls.”
Yet the FDA is still asleep, and keeps approving these drugs based on their ability to reduce LDL cholesterol levels. But they don’t consider the actual effects on heart health, other chronic diseases, or death rates.
And big pharma keeps pumping out more types of drugs that lower cholesterol to keep the money rolling in. In fact, an even newer class of cholesterol drugs — called PCSK-9 inhibitors — can cost more than $14,000 a year, while old statins cost just pennies a day. But paying even just a penny a day is one penny too much. And it could end up costing you your life.
If you want to learn more about how to protect your heart health without resorting to cholesterol drugs, I recommend reading my special report called The Insider’s Guide to a Heart-Healthy and Statin-Free Life.
“Dashing Hopes, Study Shows a Cholesterol Drug Had No Effect on Heart Health.” New York Times (www.nytimes.com) 4/3/2016