Last Sunday (August 30, 2015) an article about the new cholesterol-lowering drugs appeared in the New York Times (NYT). The article can be read here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/30/health/new-alternatives-to-statins-add-to-a-quandary-on-cholesterol.html?_r=1 The article focused on the side effects of statin drugs and it questioned if doctors will prescribe the new drugs even though they are very expensive. After reading it in the NYT, my friend and colleague, Dr. Ira Goodman, called me and suggested we write a letter to the editor. Of course, the NYT did not accept our letter, but I thought it would make an interesting blog post.
To Editor at the New York Times
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Your article about the new cholesterol-lowering medications focused on the side effects of this class of medications. However, you missed the most important part of these medications—do they really work? In other words, do they significantly reduce the incidence and mortality of strokes and heart attacks? The answer is a resounding “No” in approximately 99% of the patients treated. This important fact is usually withheld from patients when they are given these drugs because both the prescribing physician and the unsuspecting patient are unaware of the true statistics related to the studies of cholesterol-lowering medications.
You mention the JUPITER trial and the increased risk of diabetes. However, before talking about undesired effects of a drug, it is incumbent upon a practitioner to assess efficacy. If the efficacy is not there, then who cares what the side effects are- the drug should not be used. Efficacy trumps safety every time. No efficacy, no drug. Period. This is called informed consent which the American public does not have in most cases when these drugs are used.
Imagine a roulette wheel with 99 black slots and 1 red one. The manufacturers of cholesterol lowering drugs have managed to convince about 29% of the American public and nearly 100% of physicians that you should bet on red!! Yes these drugs will lower your cholesterol very effectively but what you are missing is that lowering cholesterol does not result in lower clinical events like heart attacks or stroke in the vast majority. Check the studies—the data is there.
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