Doctors Speak Out Against Plans To Make Statins More Widely Available

| June 12, 2014

As I’ve suggested before, doctors and researchers can have wildly different views on statins. Some maintain these drugs are ‘highly effective’ and very safe. Others (who bother to look objectively at the research) tell us that statins only help a small minority of people who take them, and have potential harms that are real but underplayed by the ‘statinators’.

Well, some prominent doctors in the latter camp came out swinging this week in the form of a letter they have written to the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (a body in the UK that sets healthcare policy and is considering widening the use of statins to people at even lower risk of cardiovascular disease than is currently recommended).

The doctors raise a number of concerns about the planned expansion of statin prescribing and the evidence on which this mooted recommendation is based. The authors raise six major issues:

1. The medicalization of millions of healthy individuals

NICE is suggesting we treat ever more people who are healthy. The problem is, in healthy individuals with no evidence of cardiovascular disease, the benefits of statins are vanishingly small, though the hazards are real and significant.

2. Conflicting levels of adverse events

Many ‘experts’ claim that trials show statins rarely cause problems. Actually, there are many reasons why trials can miss side effects (like screening out people who are intolerant to statins before the study starts or recognising harms once there is extreme derangement in blood values)

3. Hidden data

The Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ Collaboration (CTT) regularly makes very pro-statin pronouncements based on the ‘evidence’ from trials given to them by drug companies. The problem is, no one is allowed to take a look at this data to verify it and assess its accuracy.

4. Industry bias

It is well recognised that industry funded studies tend to report more benefits and fewer harms than independently funded studies. The problem is, almost all the statin studies are industry-funded and subject to this bias.

5. Loss of professional confidence

The public is gradually wising up to the fact that statins are virtually useless for the vast majority of people who take them, and also have significant risks. You can imagine that a doctor making a case for these drugs can quite easily look ill-informed, biased or just plain stupid in the eyes of their patients.

6. Conflicts of interest

These are rife. They exist in those who conduct the statin studies, but even affect the majority of people who sit on the NICE committee due to make a decision about widening statin prescribing.

Here’s a quote from one of the letter’s signatories Dr David Newman, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of clinical research at Mount Sinai School of medicine in New York: “I am always embarrassed when I have to tell patients that our treatment guidelines were written by a panel filled with people who stood to gain financially from their decisions. The UK certainly appears to be no different to that of the United States. The truth is for most people at low risk of cardiovascular disease a statin will give them diabetes as often as it will prevent a non-fatal heart attack – and they won’t live any longer taking the pill. That’s not what patients are looking for.”

I think Professor Newman sums things up nicely.

Here's to a healthy heart

Dr John Briffa
Editor
for The Cholesterol Truth



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Category: Latest Cholesterol News, Statin Controversy

Comments (1)

Testimonials are based on the personal experience of individuals. Results are not typical and the potential benefits of taking any drug or supplement may vary depending on your individual needs and health requirements. Please consult your GP before making any changes to your medical regimen.

  1. […] Recently, mainstream medical experts wrote a letter, reported widely in the press, in which they detailed objections about the mass-medicalization of millions of healthy individuals with statins. They also highlighted the unreliability of the evidence regarding the adverse effects of statins and the fact that almost all the evidence supporting statin drugs is industry-funded (and therefore liable to bias). Another source of bias is the fact that multiple conflicts of interest exist on the ‘expert committee’ that decides on the prescription guidelines of statin drugs. (If you want to read more about this, click here:) […]

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