Dangers of Statin Drugs:
"What You Haven’t Been Told About Popular Cholesterol-Lowering Medicines." –
Following are a collection of excerpts from this long and highly informative report, from one of the most comprehensive health related websites I've seen in a long time. The site has a link to a helpful introductory tour. I recommend first reading their brilliant brochure.–
By Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD–
Hypercholesterolemia is the health issue of the 21st century. It is actually an invented disease, a "problem" that emerged when health professionals learned how to measure cholesterol levels in the blood. High cholesterol exhibits no outward signs--unlike other conditions of the blood, such as diabetes or anemia, diseases that manifest telltale symptoms like thirst or weakness--hypercholesterolemia requires the services of a physician to detect its presence. Many people who feel perfectly healthy suffer from high cholesterol--in fact, feeling good is actually a symptom of high cholesterol!
Doctors who treat this new disease must first convince their patients that they are sick and need to take one or more expensive drugs for the rest of their lives, drugs that require regular checkups and blood tests. But such doctors do not work in a vacuum--their efforts to convert healthy people into patients are bolstered by the full weight of the US government, the media and the medical establishment, agencies that have worked in concert to disseminate the cholesterol dogma and convince the population that high cholesterol is the forerunner of heart disease and possibly other diseases as well.
Who suffers from hypercholesterolemia? Peruse the medical literature of 25 or 30 years ago and you’ll get the following answer:
The drugs that doctors use to treat the new disease are called statins--sold under a variety of names including Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin) and Pravachol (pravastatin).
How Statins Work
The diagram below illustrates the pathways involved in cholesterol production. The process begins with acetyl-CoA, a two-carbon molecule sometimes referred to as the "building block of life." Three acetyl-CoA molecules combine to form six-carbon hydroxymethyl glutaric acid (HMG). The step from HMG to mevalonate requires an enzyme, HMG-CoA reductase. Statin drugs work by inhibiting this enzyme--hence the formal name of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. Herein lies the potential for numerous side effects, because statin drugs inhibit not just the production of cholesterol, but a whole family of intermediary substances, many if not all of which have important biochemical functions in their own right.
With such paltry evidence ofbenefit, statin drugs hardly merit the hyperbole heaped upon them. Yetthe industry maintains a full court press, urging their use for greaterand greater numbers of people, not only for cholesterol lowering butalso as treatment for other diseases--cancer, multiple sclerosis,osteoporosis, stroke, macular degeneration, arthritis and even mentaldisorders such as memory and learning problems, Alzheimers anddementia.61 New guidelines published by the American College ofPhysicians call for statin use by all people with diabetes older than55 and for younger diabetes patients who have any other risk factor forheart disease, such as high blood pressure or a history of smoking.62David A. Drachman, professor of neurology at the University ofMassachusetts Medical School calls statins "Viagra for the brain."63Other medical writers have heralded the polypill, composed of a statindrug mixed with a blood pressure medication, aspirin and niacin, as aprevent-all that everyone can take. The industry is also seeking theright to sell statins over the counter.
Can honest assessment find any possible use for these dangerous drugs?
The best advertising for statin drugs is free front-page coveragefollowing gushy press releases. But not everyone reads the paper orgoes in for regular medical exams, so statin manufacturers pay bigmoney for creative ways to create new users. For example, a new healthawareness group called the Boomer Coalition supported ABC’s AcademyAwards telecast in March of 2004 with a 30-second spot flashingnostalgic images of celebrities lost to cardiovascular disease--actorJames Coburn, baseball star Don Drysdale and comedian Redd Foxx. Whilethe Boomer Coalition sounds like a grass roots group of healthactivists, it is actually a creation of Pfizer, manufacturers ofLipitor. "We’re always looking for creative ways to break through whatwe’ve found to be a lack of awareness and action," says Michal Fishman,a Pfizer spokeswoman. "We’re always looking for what people reallythink and what’s going to make people take action," adding that thereis a stigma about seeking treatment and many people "wrongly assumethat if they are physically fit, they aren’t at risk for heartdisease."64 The Boomer Coalition website allows visitors to "sign upand take responsibility for your heart health," by providing a username, age, email address and blood pressure and cholesterol level.
A television ad in Canada admonished viewers to "Ask your doctor aboutthe Heart Protection Study from Oxford University." The ad did not urgeviewers to ask their doctors about EXCEL, ALLHAT, ASCOT, MIRACL orPROSPER, studies that showed no benefit--and the potential for greatharm--from taking statin drugs.
...Carried out at Oxford University,37 this study received widespreadpress coverage; researchers claimed "massive benefits" fromcholesterol-lowering,38 leading one commentator to predict that statindrugs were "the new aspirin.
No study has shown a significant reduction in mortality in womentreated with statins. The University of British Columbia TherapeuticsInitiative came to the same conclusion, with the finding that statinsoffer no benefit to women for prevention of heart disease. Yet inFebruary of 2004, Circulation published an article in which more than20 organizations endorsed cardiovascular disease prevention guidelinesfor women with several mentions of "preferably a statin."
Lipitor did reduce total myocardial infarction and total stroke;however, total mortality was not significantly reduced. In fact, womenwere worse off with treatment.
In a study of dialysis patients, those with higher cholesterol levelshad lower mortality than those with low cholesterol.49 Yet the authorsclaimed that the "inverse association of total cholesterol level withmortality in dialysis patients is likely due to thecholesterol-lowering effect of systemic inflammation and malnutrition,not to a protective effect of high cholesterol concentrations." Keepingan eye on further funding opportunities, the authors concluded: "Thesefindings support treatment of hypercholesterolemia in this population."
Well worth taking the time to read the full report.