The Anti-Cholesterol Statin Drug Pa(Ch)Arade Continues, by Bill Sardi

You might want to read this article if you’re taking statin drugs, and ask your doctor a few questions. From Bill Sardi at

The nation’s corps of elite medical news reporters isn’t touching this one.  It’s a commentary entitled “Systematic Review of The Predictors of Statin Drug Adherence For the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, published in PUBLIC LIBRARY OF SCIENCE (PLoS One), in January of 2019.

Facing off seven manufacturers of statin drugs that sell billions of dollars of these cholesterol-lowering drugs, leading critics of the “statin drug parade” said this:

  • Statin cholesterol-lowering “miracle” drugs only reduce risk for major adverse health events by less than 1% (0.7%), not the widely advertise 30%.

  • Up to 75-90% of patients prescribed statin drugs stop taking them independently of their doctors because of observed side effects (far higher than previously reported).
  • “The overall magnitude of beneficial effects from stating drugs is so slight as to be clinically insignificant.”
  • “Ahealthy man with elevated cholesterol will not live any longer if he takes statins.”
  • 167 people need to be treated with a statin for 5 years to prevent a single hard cardiovascular event.
  • Only 25% of statin drug users continue to take the drug 2-years after initial prescription.
  • “For every 100 patients with elevated cholesterol levels who take statins for 5 years, a myocardial infarction will be prevented in 1 or 2 patients. Preventing a heart attack is a meaningful outcome. However, by taking statins, 1 or more patients will develop diabetes and 20% or more will experience disabling symptoms, including muscle weakness, fatigue and memory loss.”
  • The long list of side effects associated with statin drugs includes: muscle pain, fatigue, especially with exertion and exercise, idiopathic inflammatory myositis, autoimmune myopathy, psychiatric and cognitive symptoms (depression, confusion, aggression, memory loss, severe irritability, sleep disturbances, musculoskeletal disorders and injuries [, sudden sensorineural hearing loss, and gastrointestinal distress
  • There is a second tier of morbidities that “may not be perceived by the users as a side effect, but are linked to statin treatment”: Type-2 diabetes, particularly in women, cancer, liver dysfunction and failure, cataracts, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), ALS-like conditions and other central motor disorders, e.g., Parkinson’s disease and cerebellar ataxia, lupus-like syndrome, susceptibility to herpes zoster, interstitial cystitis, polymyalgia rheumatic, kidney injury, and kidney failure.
  • These researchers “conclude that non-adherence to statin treatment for primary prevention of CVD is justified because the meager benefits are more than offset by the extensive harms.
  • Imagine, two decades ago the editor of the American Journal of Cardiology referred to statins as “underused miracle drugs which are to atherosclerosis what penicillin was to infectious disease.”

The realities of statins are more sobering and go beyond mere disappointment to suggest scientific deception, particularly because these drugs are being posed as a remedy for a major life-threatening disease, not just piles and lumbago.

A recent report suggests modern medicine deal with these statin drug-induced side effects with an array of antidotes, in other words, treat the treatment.

If men only knew: statin drugs lower testosterone levels.  (Supplemental vitamin D counters this problem.). In fact, the hidden mechanism behind statin drugs may be to raise vitamin D levels.  One investigator suggests the clinical benefits of statin drugs are explained by their ability to raise vitamin D levels, not lower cholesterol.  Vitamin D and coenzyme Q10 are now on the list of antidotes to avert side effects posed by statins.

Statin drugs as a class of drugs result in a disproportionality in the incidence of cataracts.  Overall, statins increase the relative risk for cataracts by 366%.  But some types of statins increase the risk for cataracts by 1480% and 1330%.  Statin drugs are making cataract surgeons a lot of money.

One of the covert reasons why modern medicine may be moving towards a polypill (a combo-pill that provides a statin with other drugs and vitamins) would be to hide or reduce the potential side effects of statins.

There are a number of drugs that inhibit a family of detoxification enzymes in the liver.  These detox enzymes dull the effect of toxic drugs.  Detox inhibition via other drugs could exacerbate potential side effects posed by statin drugs.  (Statins are liver toxins in themselves).  Given that many older adults take 5 or more prescription drugs, the danger of poly-pharmaceutical toxicity is very real.

Some doctors are getting the message.  A recent survey shows 80% of doctors surveyed recently de-prescribed cardiovascular drugs like statins.

Why do doctors prescribe statin drugs? Answer: because, when prescribed, statins reward doctors with a drug assessment fee from insurance carriers and because they bring patients back to the office for refills.  So combined with side effects, they result in a lot more doctoring.

So, what does all this say about doctoring in the 21st century?

  • It is given over to commercial interests ahead of its mandate to “first do no harm.”

And what does say about patients who continue to take statins?

  • Should they be called gullible, naïve, overly-loyal, victims of modern medicine?

The statin drug parade continues, blessed by the FDA.

2 responses to “The Anti-Cholesterol Statin Drug Pa(Ch)Arade Continues, by Bill Sardi

  1. It’s not that simple. It’s one thing to say that drugs do not do what is advertised. It’s another to say that there are problems with compliance. Statin drugs, when used as directed *do* have a significant benefit. The problem is that people stop taking them. The same problem exists with anti-hypertensive drugs. Anti-hypertensive drugs lower mortality among people who take them, but, not surprisingly, don’t work well with those who do not.

    For instance, with respect to statins, people who were very compliant about taking the drugs displayed a 30% lower rate of all cause mortality compared to less compliant patients (Rodriquez F, Maron DJ, Knowles DJ, Association of Statin Adherence With Mortality in Patients With Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease JAMA Cardiol. 2019;4(3):206-213. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2018.4936 ). Even the authors of the commentary admit that these statistics are repeatable.

    The argument of the commenters has three primary problems. The first is that they focus on treatment of older patients. It is generally true that any intervention will have less of an absolute decrease in death rate the older you go. The fact that statin therapy in 75 year olds doesn’t result in a 30-year increase in lifespan is not surprising. It would be more useful to follow younger people with hypercholesterolemia.

    The second problem is that they discount the “soft’ outcomes that do not result in death — e.g. needing stent placement or CABG. These are not trivial issues just because someone doesn’t die immediately. Moreover, they have significant impact on quality of life.

    Third, one can play the same game against the commenters that they play. The authors note, after discounting “soft” outcomes that the absolute “hard” outcomes it would require treating 167 patients for one life saved. According to the CDC, there were 647,457 cardiovascular deaths in 2017. Let’s divide that by 167, and we get 3876 people saved. That’s not chicken feed, even with that inappropriately low estimate.

    Another thing to think about is the “lymphoma” approach to decreasing the mortality associated with disease. If you look at most cancers, there is rarely some “magic bullet” that is suddenly discovered. Consider Hodgkin’s lymphoma. When I was in medical school, it had a 96% mortality. Then they started using chemotherapy that resulted in 94% mortality. Then 92%. Then 88%. Then 85%. And on and on. Now the short term mortality is around 25%.

    The same thing is true about heart disease. Decreasing mortality is not just one thing. It’s a combination of things. 20% decrease here, 20% decrease there, 20% decrease somewhere else, and suddenly you are talking about real decreases.

    A more interesting issue is not whether or not statins are really any better than niacin. Early studies with niacin showed it was cheaper and just as effective as statin drugs, with minimal side effects other than flushing. The AIM-HIGH study killed a lot of enthusiasm for niacin, but it was an industry-supported study of time-release no-flush niacin — which should *not* have been of benefit. Much of the benefit of nicotinic acid is on the endothelial cells of blood vessels, which means that you have to take enough raw nicotinic acid to get past first-pass metabolism by the liver to niacinamide. Thus, “flush free” formulations should not work. Accordingly, a test of time-release flush-free niacin did not reflect the effect of high dose nicotinic acid.

    On a personal note, my personal primary care physician talked to me about starting statins when I hit 40 and my numbers were creeping up. I told him I’d rather give niacin monotherapy a trial. We agreed to give it a try. I’m now 64, obese, sedentary, and have the lipid profile of a 20-year-old. For pennies a day. People who are statin-skeptical should take a look at the nicotinic acid (not flush free version) literature.


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