Statin Drugs Don’t Save Lives and May Increase Your Risk for Diabetes
by Bill Sardi by Bill Sardi
Americans are being bombarded today by news reports of a breakthrough in the prevention of cardiovascular disease (heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure). The hype is undeserved, the data less than compelling, and when it came to whether the statin drug used in the study (Crestor) actually saved lives, the headlines should have said the drug trial failed and that it raised the risk for diabetes.
Here is how the news media and health authorities portrayed the study (New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 9, 2008):
"A highly anticipated study has produced powerful evidence that a simple blood test can spot seemingly healthy people who are at increased risk for a heart attack or stroke and that giving them a widely used drug offers potent protection against the nation’s leading killers."
~ Rob Stein, Washington Post
“The potential public health benefits are huge. It really changes the way we have to think about prevention of heart attack and stroke.”
~ Paul M. Ridker of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston
“It’s a breakthrough study, it’s a blockbuster. It’s absolutely paradigm-shifting.”
~ Steven E. Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic (These are the words drug companies want to hear.)
“This takes prevention to a whole new level. Yesterday you would not have used a statin for a patient whose cholesterol was normal. Today you will.”
~ W. Douglas Weaver, president of the American College of Cardiology
"These are findings that are really going to impact the practice of cardiology in the country."
~ Dr. Elizabeth G. Nabel, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which was not involved in the research
The drug companies now assert that normally healthy people should now take statin drugs, even if they have low-to-normal cholesterol levels, because Crestor reduced C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation. This claim would expand the use of statin drugs to millions more Americans and reel in billions of dollars of sales for the maker of Crestor.
For comparison, Crestor reduced C-reactive protein by 37%, vitamin E lowers CRP by 32%, and vitamin C by 25.3%. [Free Radical Medicine & Biology Oct. 10, 2008; American Journal Clinical Nutrition 86: 1392: 2007.] These vitamins are not toxic to the liver.
Major efforts will likely be made to promote Crestor on TV, prodding healthy people with normal cholesterol levels to begin taking a drug known to cause liver toxicity and muscle problems, a drug that costs $3.45 per day ($1259 a year). The data shows about 120 patients would have to take Crestor for nearly two years to prevent just one stroke or heart attack. Translation: the drug is effective among less than 1% of the patients over this time period.
The 4-year study of 18,000 patients was stopped suddenly prior to the 2-year mark because it allegedly showed startling improvements in cardiovascular health. But generally studies are halted when greater risk is identified. Halting the study prematurely may have hidden the occurrence of the characteristic side effects caused by the drug (liver toxicity and muscle problems).
The drug also increased the risk for diabetes, which represents disease substitution, not disease prevention.
John Abramson, a Harvard professor and author of Overdosed America, said: “We’re already struggling to provide health services for the 46 million Americans who don’t have health insurance in the United States. This is going to drain away a lot of money from the system for little or no benefit. We know that there are lifestyle interventions that are effective.”
Dr. Abramson’s own analysis of major statin drug studies did not reveal any significant reduction in mortality, regardless of whether statin drugs lowered cholesterol or C-reactive protein.
The drug companies know their long-standing cholesterol-ruse is over. So they have now found another useless marker to make Americans phobic over — inflammation and C-reactive protein.
This chart, taken directly from the Crestor study (Jupiter study, New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 9, 2008), shows no difference in overall mortality rates between an inactive placebo pill and Crestor, a statin drug, among 18,000 adults. Pay careful attention to the two overlapping lines at the bottom of the chart, which show no difference in mortality. The small chart that is inset within the larger chart had to be used to show the imagined difference in mortality. The small chart magnifies the difference, which is essentially non-existent.
Bill Sardi [send him mail] is a frequent writer on health and political topics. His health writings can be found at www.naturalhealthlibrarian.com. He is the author of You Don’t Have To Be Afraid Of Cancer Anymore.