Millions are being misled about the pros and cons of statin drugs, according to a panel of experts who gathered recently to discuss the controversial class of the massively prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Doctors from the United States, France, England, and Ireland questioned the theory that lowering LDL (so-called “bad” cholesterol) actually cuts heart disease.
They also wrote in the Prescriber medical journal, where their theories were published, that the side effects of statins used to lower cholesterol, may be far more common and debilitating than major studies suggest.
While most cardiologists today are quick to prescribe cholesterol-lowering drugs to our aging and increasingly obese population, they are potentially mistaken in thinking that statins are a cheap, safe, and effective way of preventing heart attacks said the group of doctors.
London cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhorta, for example, questions whether these medications are even as effective as thought, claiming that the “cholesterol con” has led to “overmedication of millions.”
Harvard Medical School’s Dr. John Abramson cited earlier research that found no link between high LDL cholesterol levels and heart deaths in those over 60.
“A lack of association between LDL cholesterol and cardiovascular disease in those over 60 from our recent systemic review suggests the conventional cholesterol hypothesis is flawed,” wrote Abramson in the article, entitled “The Great Cholesterol Con.”
Richard Thompson, the Queen’s former personal physician asked this telling question: “For hundreds of years physicians have clung to outdated and ineffective treatments. Could statins be now the latest star to fall? Have patients been misled over them for many years?”
Dr. Jonny Bowden, Ph.D., co-author of “The Great Cholesterol Myth” with renowned cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra, tells Newsmax Health that “the new article is a wonderful development, but not wholly unexpected.”
“Our book, ‘The Great Cholesterol Myth,’ references dozens of and dozens of studies that not only cast doubt on the cholesterol theory but in some cases totally refutes the notion that cholesterol causes heart disease,” he says.
“We list several peer-reviewed studies that show more than half the people admitted to hospitals for cardiovascular disease have normal cholesterol. Not only doesn’t cholesterol cause heart disease, it is a lousy predictor of it!”
Bowden, appearing on The Doctor Oz Show, said that “trying to lower the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol is like trying to lower the risk of obesity by taking the lettuce off your Big Mac.”
He went on to say that this new theory was actually voiced long ago by researcher Dr. George Mann, one of the principal investigators of the long-running Framingham study of heart disease.
Mann said that the notion of cholesterol causing heart disease was “the biggest scam ever perpetuated on the American public.”
Another excellent article, says Bowden, published in the journal Nutrition pointed out the discrepancy between scientific literature and dietary advice. The authors found that the “results and conclusions linking saturated fat to cardiovascular disease from leading advisory committees do not reflect the available scientific data.”
Finally there is the issue of the $34 billion statin drug industry and the overmedication of the public in general. Dr. John Abramson of Harvard Medical School has been an outspoken opponent of the overuse of ineffective drugs and wrote a book called “Overdosed America” describing the abuse and overuse of statins.
Statin drugs have multiple serious side effects from memory loss to fatigue to loss of energy and libido. Others may suffer serious muscle pain, says Bowden.
Last April, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that between 5 percent and 20 percent of all people taking stains stopped because of muscle pain.
And these figures may be just the tip of the iceberg. Bowden refers to a telling study by Dr. Beatrice Golumb, from the University of California-San Diego, in which she reveals that more than 65 percent of doctors do not report statin side effects because they don’t believe their patients.
“The average patient comes in and says ‘Doc, ever since you gave me this Lipitor I’ve been forgetting things right and left,’ ” says Bowden. “And the doctor replies, ‘Mr. Jones, that’s just mild cognitive impairment that comes with old age, nothing to worry about and definitely not coming from the statin drug.’ ”
Despite the evidence that statins don’t save lives, they are routinely prescribed even for low-risk patients.
“Doctors prescribe them randomly for anyone with a so-called elevated cholesterol level,” says Bowden. “Interestingly, the Framingham study revealed that people with the highest cholesterol levels actually lived the longest.
“And the claim from drug companies that statins save lives usually does not hold up upon close examination. You may see a slight reduction in heart attacks but your will see a corresponding increase in cancer and diabetes.”
In fact a 2013 Harvard study calculated that for every low risk patient who takes statins for five years, only one major heart event will be prevented.
Ultimately experts say that revamping one’s diet and lifestyle to reduce or eliminate processed foods and sugar and exercising more should be the main focus for heart disease prevention.
But as long as the statin industry keeps raking in big bucks, says Bowden, the powers that be will turn a deaf ear and blind eye to the actual facts.
“As the great American writer Upton Sinclair once said: ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
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