Fast food to be served with a side-order of statins? No thanks

Many doctors and scientists have nearly unbridled enthusiasm for the class of cholesterol-reducing drugs known as statins. One example of this comes in the form of a study from a group of researchers which claims that taking a statin can counteract the potentially heart-stopping effects of fast food [1]. The researchers suggest that fast food establishments might, therefore, dish out statins along with the food they serve. (No, this is not a joke).

What is being suggested here, therefore, is that usually-prescribed and potentially harmful medication is doled out to all and sundry. No account, it seems, need be taken of individuals’ medical history or need. Some of those being offered ‘over-the –counter’ may have good reason not to take statins, because perhaps of pre-existing conditions or current medications that makes statins contraindicated. No matter – let ‘em have it all the same.

And to what end? Well, as we now know, while statins can reduce the risk of heart attack, they do not reduce overall risk of death for the vast majority of people who take them (individuals who are essentially healthy with no history of ‘cardiovascular disease’). For more on this, see here.

And while some doctors and scientists would have us believe that statins are some sort of magical elixir, I feel duty bound to highlight the fact that these drugs are most certainly not without risk. Statin therapy is associated with enhanced risk of several major side effects including muscle weakness and/or pain (myopathy), liver damage , kidney failure and cataracts. Earlier this year, the British Medical Journal study published a review of the risks/benefits of statin therapy [1]. Here, in summary, are the findings of this study:

For every 10,000 women at high risk of CVD treated with statins, we would expect approximately 271 fewer cases of cardiovascular disease and 8 fewer cases of oesophageal cancer. However, there would be 23 extra patients with kidney failure, 307 extra patients with cataracts; 74 extra patients with liver dysfunction; and 39 extra patients with myopathy.

For every 10,000omen at high risk of CVD treated with statins, we would expect approximately 301 fewer cases of cardiovascular disease, 9 fewer cases of oesophageal cancer, 29 extra patients with kidney failure, 191 extra patients with cataracts; 71 extra patients with liver dysfunction; and 110 extra patients with myopathy.

Do the maths here and you will be able to quickly calculate that for each person ‘saved’ from cardiovascular disease and oesophageal cancer, more than one person will suffer from a major side effect of the medication.

Also, it is perhaps prudent to bear in mind that this study focused specifically on data relating to individuals deemed to be at high risk of cardiovascular disease. Why is this relevant? Well, because statins benefit these people the most. However, most people taking statins are not actually at high risk of cardiovascular disease. For such individuals, the benefits are likely to be considerably lower than those elucidated in this study (while risks are likely to be about the same).

Now, of course, there’s always going to be some doctors and scientists that will not hear any talk of statins not being the best thing since sliced bread. However, the facts show these drugs have limited benefits for most, and may come with a heavy price to pay (in more ways than one).

My stance here is based on published research. And here again, there are two sides to this coin. It’s not difficult to find doctors and scientists quote chapter and verse regarding all the wonderful studies which purport to demonstrate the manifold benefits of statins drugs. But the scientific research and the way it has been presented to the medical profession and members of the public does appear to have been prone to significant ‘bias’. There is quite compelling evidence, I think, that demonstrates that pharmaceutical companies and those in their pay have been a bit selective about the data that has made its way into the public domain. The interpretation of the evidence seems to have been subject to bias as a result of vested interest too. See here for more about this.

The suggestion that statins be served as a ‘healthy’ side-order to fast food serves to remind us just how narrow a view many in the medical and scientific establishment hold of these drugs. The facts are, though, that the ‘evidence’ on statins seems hugely biased and perverted by vested interest, and there is good evidence that these drugs harm more people than they help. As a result, I personally won’t be taking statins any time soon.

References:

1. Ferenczi EA, et al. Can a Statin Neutralize the Cardiovascular Risk of Unhealthy Dietary Choices? Am J Cardiol. 2010;106(4):587-592.

2. Hippisley-Cox J, et al. Unintended effects of statins in men and women in England and Wales: population based cohort study using the QResearch database BMJ 2010;340:c2197

8 Responses to Fast food to be served with a side-order of statins? No thanks

  1. Liz Smith 13 August 2010 at 9:24 pm #

    My sons friend – 42yrs old has been told he has to have a stent fitted and that as his cholesterol is a bit high (he didn’t know what it is, why are patients here not considered intelligent enough to be told?)and that he will be given statins – but he should not believe all the tales you can read about them!! He’s been given the following website to read so that if he takes them he knows what to watch out for. http://www.spacedoc.net/statin_side_effects

    My friend’s husband had a heart attack about three years ago – who had no cholesterol problems beforehand – was put on statins. Now he’s on a waiting list for a kidney transplant and is borderline diabetic. I was told I wasn’t a doctor so how did I know anything, when told them to be aware of the problems known that statins can produce.

  2. Donald G 14 August 2010 at 4:19 am #

    You write:

    “Well, as we now know, while statins can reduce the risk of heart attack, they do not reduce overall risk of death for the vast majority of people who take them”

    Is not the modest reduction in the risk of heart attack found only in those who have already had a heart attack? I.e. does it not provide only some measure of secondary risk reduction, but none of primary risk reduction? Or am I thinking of aspirin?

  3. Mrs M Given 14 August 2010 at 4:20 am #

    Statins are the scourge of the 21st century. They inhibit the redox reaction in the cell wall of the mitochondria resulting in a flood of free radicals into the body, the inhibition of cholesterol ~ the hormonal foundation of the immune system ~ damages the body’s natural defences and the drug establishes cross linkages with the liver resulting in metabolic dysfunction. There are other negative implications but I fully expect to see a large rise in auto immune conditions from prescribing this drug over the next 10-20 years. It is a hugely profitable drug being prescribed for conditions which can be resolved with diet and lifestyle changes in many instances. Ask your doctor if he gets a bonus for using this drug and or if he is aware of its pharmacology.

  4. R Vasudevan 14 August 2010 at 12:13 pm #

    Ever since I had a bipass surgery a few years back, I am on BP lowering drugs as also statins – 10 mg increased to 20 mg subsequently. During periodical tests, my sugar level has increased slightly and since the last few months, traces of protein were reported in the urine which has gone up suddenly a month back. I had cataract problem which had to be corrected with laser surgery. Last year, my vision in the right eye was severely affected with punctured tiny blood vessels and the oozing had to be stopped again with laser intervention to arrest further deterioration. But the damage has been done. Muscle cramps are encountered in the legs as a matter of course. I have also developed Atrial Fibrillation in the mean time needing anti-coagulant drugs.I enquired with my cardiologist as to whether I need CO Q 10 supplementation which he said was not necessary. Having come to know the sad side effects of statin medication, I asked him whether Picosonal could be a better alternative and I was told that he was not prescribing it.However, now that protein level in the urine is found to be high, he has asked me to stop using statins and also Fenecor 67 mg tablets. My native health had all along been excellent. I am really distraught with these developments. Are there any suggestions to improve my condition ?
    R Vasudevan

  5. Ron 19 August 2010 at 9:00 pm #

    Several years ago when an old friend of mine was prescribed statins, I entered “statin side effects” into Google & was appalled at the results. I also became aware of the fact that whilst statins inhibit the production of LDL, the bad cholesterol, they also inhibit the production of Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Since CoQ10 is stated to be an essential nutrient which strengthens & protects heart function by reducing heartbeat irregularities, hypertension & angina pectoris, it would appear that it should br mentioned & prescribed to anyone prescribed statins, but I’ve never met anyone who was told this.
    When my wife was prescribed statins recently (altho’ I took her off them when her cholesterol level turned out to be under 4 rather than over 6),I read that in the UK statins are now being prescribed to 6 million people compared with 1 million a few years ago, & also that the NHS is apparently considering prescribing statins to all over 50s!
    I therefore wrote to my MP about statins depleting the body of an essential nutrient, Co-enzyme Q10. My letter was copied to the Department of Health & I subsequently received a copy of their reply which didn’t mention CoQ10!

  6. trina 24 June 2013 at 2:06 pm #

    My guess is that all of the side effect data is from adult studies, too. I can only imagine what would happen to the developing brains of all these kids growing up on fast food and statins.

    And how would dosing work? maybe it would be like going to the vets – there could be a floor scale where you stand and order, and the teenage employees would calculate the amount of drugs you get for your weight!

    And what if you are already on a statin? Would you have to declare this before ordering?

    Would people on statins start taking extra doses when they eat a burger because they’ve heard they will counteract it?

    Will they take extra doses in order to eat extra burgers?

    Hmmm…. So many ramifications, and all of them bad…

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