Statins: Pro-statin Doctors Go On The Offensive

| July 10, 2014

I reported recently that a group of doctors, some quite prominent, had expressed concerns about the mooted expansion of the prescription of cholesterol-lowering statins, in the UK. They wrote a letter, reported widely in the press, in which they detailed six major objections to the plan, including the mass-medicalization of millions of healthy individuals, the unreliability of the evidence regarding the adverse effects of statins and the fact that almost all the evidence 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 is adjudicating on the statin issue.

More recently, those who are staunch supporters of widespread statin therapy went on their own offensive. Six professors convened a press briefing at the Science Media Centre to put forward their arguments. The briefing was reported in the British Medical Journal [1].

The statin supporters included Professor Sir Rory Collins (head of the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists collaboration) and Professor Peter Weissberg (medical director of the British Heart Foundation).

One of Professor Collins’ gripes was that “misrepresenting the evidence” will have a negative impact on people who are at high risk of cardiac events. He is quoted as saying: “It’s perfectly reasonable to debate whether patients at lower risk should get statins or not, but it’s inappropriate to misrepresent the evidence.”

In the briefing, he redoubled his assertion that rates of ‘myopathy’ are much lower than some people state. However, his definition of myopathy appears to be pinned to quite extreme muscle damage, levels of the enzyme used to assess muscle damage (creatinine kinase) are at least 10 times the upper limit of normal.

Are we to assume that Professor Sir Rory Collins is disinterested unless muscles are in near-meltdown? We can, I suppose, just ignore those poor unfortunates with less biochemical aberrations even though their symptoms are real and often debilitating.

In the BMJ article, Professor Weissberg is reported as saying that “…the critics are wrong. They’ve retracted, they’re wrong.” Except, that the only thing that has been retracted were the misleading representations of statin side-effects as reported in one single piece of research. All the major objections detailed in the original letter stand until someone properly disputes them.

With regard to these, Professor Weissberg dismisses any concerns we may have about the fact that practically all the evidence is industry funded. His reasoning? The drug companies only paid people to do the studies, rather than the drug companies doing the studies themselves. Actually, it’s well known that industry funded studies tend to find greater benefits and less harms than those that are independently funded.

Perhaps one of the most telling things of all is the fact that only pro-statin experts were invited to the briefing. In defence of this tactic, the director of the Science Media Centre – Ms Fiona Fox – tells us that the “vast majority” of cardiac and statin experts believed that the evidence was overwhelming, and that it was not the centre’s job to provide a platform to a minority who did not.

First of all, I wouldn’t be too sure that the evidence is overwhelming or that the pro-statin camp is in the great majority. And even if these things were true, is that a reason to stifle debate and allow no right of reply?

Here's to a healthy heart

Dr John Briffa
Editor
for The Cholesterol Truth

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References:

1. Hawkes N, et al. Six professors back NICE guidance on extending use of statins. BMJ 2014;349:g4380

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Comments (3)

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. Harold Wong says:

    I am not sure but I think statin which I have been taking for 8 years gave me impaired walking balance and my walking gait very unsteady as if I am about to fall over and lose my balance like an old man. My legs feel like jelly and my balance is extremely poor and unusual for my age (I am 59, yet) not old enough to experience these sort of problems so soon. If I am much, much older I can accept and understand but to experience this now is much too soon!!

  2. Liz Feldman says:

    I have been on statins for the last 10 years, 10 years ago my cholesterol was very high (12) I wanted to be put on the lowest dose possible when my doctor said it was neccessary – I am on 10mg a day,have no side effects and my cholesterol level is well down,so low doses are possibly OK.

  3. Elizabeth Joan Wade says:

    “Are we to assume that Professor Sir Rory Collins is disinterested unless muscles are in near melt-down. We can, I suppose, just ignore those poor unfortunates with less biochemical abberations even though their symptoms are real and often debilitating.”

    I am serious. My muscles did melt down and I would like Professor Sir Rory Collins and Professor Peter Weissberg to physically examine me and see for them selves the damage Lipitor/statins has done to my muscles. The muscle wasting in my neck, shoulders, arms/wrists and legs/ankles/feet are clear to see and I have photos taken in 2008 to prove it. The photos also show severe skin damage: thinning, drying and bleeding of the skin. Most doctors are in denial and turn a blind eye to the statin horrors unfolding. And most fail to report ADRs to the MHRA so the statistics held are unreliable.

    1) Why has the NHS covered up the life-threatening statin-induced adverse reaction that I reported on 6 March 2008 when this dangerous drug was stopped? I had taken the drug for 2 years (long term) but it was too late; the damage was done. I have been abandoned by the NHS and left alone to cope with the irreversible serious side effects. It is cruel and inhumane.

    2) Why have I been stonewalled since receiving a letter dated 8 April 2013 from the ICO in response to my request for an investigation into why the Department of Health and the Home Office will not release to me a copy of the test results of an animal statin drug trial on 145 rats “Statin effects on heart and muscle/Home Office” that took place from 2006-2011?

    Until I get answers to these questions and a diagnosis of my drug-induced injuries the public cannot believe a word either of these ‘medical experts’ say.

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