‘Statins for all’ big push as blockbuster statin patents expire

It’s no coincidence that, on both sides of the Atlantic, we're seeing a big push towards ‘statins for all’.  When the patents expire on the blockbuster drugs, pharma will no longer be commanding big bucks for those drugs.  They either need to find new 'magic bullets' or increase sales by finding additional uses for existing drugs.


In the UK, a timely meta-analysis of 22 earlier trials has just been published– trials which, according to the conflicts of interest statement, were mostly supported by Big Pharma research grants.  Analysis of these, er, impressive pharma data indicates that statins are effective for all patients at some risk of a vascular event, and that benefit ‘greatly exceeds any known hazards’ (a view disputed by many statin users).  Alarmingly, in response, UK health authorities have called for all general practitioners to offer statins to everyone over the age of 50! 

Cochrane, contradiction and controversy

Oddly though, this study flies in the face of an earlier Cochrane review, which caused controversy by concluding that there was insufficient evidence to recommend widespread use of statins in primary prevention of heart disease.  The lead author even dared to suggest that earlier data showing benefit were biased by industry-funded studies.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond

Meanwhile, reports from the US reveal that statins may soon be sold in vending  machines.  Using online questionnaires, Americans will be able to self-diagnose their cardiovascular disease (CVD) condition or risk, and will then be able to select a suitable statin drug from a machine.  With doctors out of the equation, this will speed up and streamline sales in a similar way to UK ‘over-the-counter’ (OTC) sales.  Given the laundry list of statin side effects, such easy access to the drugs is a terrifying prospect. 

Cholesterol – friend or foe?

Is cholesterol our friend or our foe?  A valid question that's being drowned out as pharma beats the drum of 'statins for all'.  Nature rarely creates something without a role in the body, and it's no surprise that cholesterol is now recognised as one of our non-inflammatory defence mechanisms.  In many instances, it allows for the 'marking' of invading bacteria so they can be identified and hunted down by the immune system.  The organs in our bodies that don’t trigger an immune response, such as the brain, blood vessels, pancreas and skin, are protected by non-inflammatory defence mechanisms to ensure that our survival is not compromised by a massive inflammatory reaction where other, more gentle, strategies may be used.  Interestingly, analysis of atherosclerotic plaques shows a host of different bacteria and viruses present, but no cholesterol.  Could it be that cholesterol is actually one of our very dear friends, and that without sufficient levels, we're opening ourselves up to a plethora of chronic diseases caused by a lack of cholesterol, and not just to adverse events from the statins?


Dr Stephanie Seneff deconstructs the cholesterol myth and explains how statins wreak havoc in the body in a fascinating, yet chilling, essay entitled How Statins Really Work Explains Why They Don't Really Work.


Adverse events trickle becomes a flood

No wonder, then, that adverse events include muscle toxicity, moderate or severe myopathy, moderate or serious liver dysfunction, acute renal failure and cataract, diabetes, cognitive impairment and many others. The list keeps on growing.


Predictably, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) both stress that adverse events should not deter people from taking statins.

 

All in all, it looks as if Big Pharma has done very well at overemphasising benefits, underplaying risks, understudying, underestimating and overlooking potential and actual adverse events.  Resulting in a massive and continuing increase in sales.  That’s what you call successful marketing, and it’s somewhat akin to selling radioactive ice to the Eskimos.

Bill Sardi sums it up

As journalist and healthcare commentator Bill Sardi indicated:


It is said statin drugs lower the risk for a heart attack by 30% (relative number), but in hard numbers the risk reduction is almost imaginary, with only 1 in 70 high-risk individuals, and in maybe 1 in 300 healthy individuals, averting a non-mortal heart attack, and these imaginary benefits are weighed against the real risk for liver damage, memory loss, muscle damage and other side effects.  Ask yourself how the FDA could possibly approve such a class of ineffective drugs.


We would agree.   

 

Call to Action

•    Avoid statins if you’re healthy and over-50, especially if you’ve had no past history of heart attack.  If you are already on them, speak to your doctor about any concerns and ask for scientific justification.  You can then determine if you are prepared to accept this justification.  Make sure you read other scientific views, such as those of Stephanie Senneff.


•    Use appropriate dietary approaches to keep you healthy, such as those proposed in our Food4Health campaign.


•    Ensure you are physically active, every day.  Depending on your state of health, ensure you also include at least three sessions of moderate to intense exercise of at least 30 minutes per week


•    Stay up-to-date with developments by signing up for our free e-Alerts using the box at the right-hand side of any page of our website.