What Benefit am I Getting from this Medication?
We have been told for the best part of 30 years that fats are bad and cholesterol is a killer. Facts now emerging are throwing a question mark over this assumption.
An analysis of 500 studies published in 2009 failed to show any association between dietary fat intake and heart disease. Startling but true!
There has also been an assumption that lowering cholesterol in the blood stream is a good thing and the lower the better. The main drugs used to do this are a class called the statins.
It is estimated that over 20 million Americans take a statin. They have been the most profitable drug class ever launched. The market for them has been gradually expanded by a combination of “favorable” studies, lowering of targets for cholesterol and promotion by the manufacturers. The FDA has issued a new advisory warning about statins. The drugs must carry a warning about an increased risk of diabetes and possible memory loss.
Given that the aim of taking them has been to reduce the chances of a heart attack or stroke, it seems confusing that the drugs increase the risks of diabetes.
Many people will be wondering what it means for them.
There is a bigger issue, which is not getting much airplay. That is the fact that for people who have not had a heart attack there is not actually a reduction in mortality (death) by taking a statin. Yes the cholesterol is lower but nobody dies of cholesterol!
A major meta-analysis of over 65,000 people in 11 studies over 40 years showed no reduction in mortality for people taking cholesterol-lowering medication in primary prevention (that is where they do not have heart disease).
Furthermore the JUPITER study, which has influenced use of statins in healthy people, has been discredited with criticisms including “… troubling questions concerning the role of commercial sponsors”.
With any medical treatment we need to be sure the benefits outweigh the risks. When the risks include developing diabetes we need to be clear that this can be justified.
For many people taking a statin, having raised cholesterol but they do not have heart disease, the risks now outweigh the benefits - basically because there is no benefit.
Each person is different and you should discuss the matter with your doctor. The opening question may be “What benefit am I getting from this medication?”