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Monday 21 October 2019

STATIN DRUGS. Doctors are prescribing them for healthy people they consider in danger of heart disease. But a study has found they have little benefit. However, the serious side effects remain!

NICE encourages doctors to prescribe statin drugs to patients considered to have just a 10% risk threshold for heart disease. Many doctors feel that this uses up vast amounts of clinical time when waiting times to see a doctor continues to increase. They have been reducing these threshold (that is, increasingly the number of well people who are told to take statins) for decades.

The reason for this is simple. Conventional medicine believes that (i) statin drugs reduce the risk of heart problems; and (ii) the drugs are 'entirely safe'.

I have written several blogs over the last 10 years about the assumed safety of statin drugs (do a search on 'statins', above to see them all). You will see that they are now known to cause serious disease, such as diabetes, prostate cancer. arthritis, structural muscle damage, serious skin disease, prostate cancer, and even heart disease (yes really!) The most recent serious disease found to be caused by statins is confusion - so these 'safe'  drugs may well be an important factor in the epidemic tise in levels of dementia/alzheimers that we are now experiencing.

The assumption about statin drugs (as with all pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines) is that they are effective. This is surely necessary to counteract the harm they are now known to cause - that they are, at the very least, effective - they actually do what doctors have told us for so long they do!

But they don't! Like every drug you might care to mention, when they are first marketed we are told that they are (i) safe, and (ii) effective, only to find out later that they are neither.

               "The benefits of statins for primary prevention in healthy patients is unclear and in some cases a ’waste of healthcare resources’.

This is according to a study published in the British Medical Journal in October 2019.The study was conducted by the National University of Ireland, Galway. Researchers drew upon primary prevention data drawn on the findings of three recent peer reviewed papers on statin drugs, and they concluded that the benefits of statins to this group....

               "were not statistically significant when the baseline risk of developing a cardiovascular disease was factored in, raising uncertainty about the benefits of statins for primary prevention."

This was reported in the GP magazine, Pulse, which quoted one of the researchers saying that the use of statins for primary prevention ‘may be an example of low value care and, in some cases, represent a waste of healthcare resources’.

And Pulse provided these statistics.

               "Although the benefits of statins among healthy patients remains unclear, the study also showed that the proportion of over-50s eligible for statins increased from 8% in 1987 to 61% in 2016 due to a change in guidelines on cardiovascular disease." (my emphasis).

So whilst increasingly 'lower risk' patients became eligible for statin treatment, "none of those patients ... would reach acceptable levels of risk reduction to justify taking a daily statin."

So will patients be informed of this?
  • Will this study have any impact on conventional medicine's approach?
  • Will healthy statin users, considered to be low and medium risk, be told about this? 
  • Will the media pick up the study, and inform the public?
It is would seem that the answer to all these questions is a definite "NO"! Pulse quoted the response of Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, which showed of the usual defensiveness about pharmaceutical drugs.

               "Evidence has shown that statins are safe drugs and an effective preventative measure against heart conditions when prescribed and used appropriately. Nevertheless, the College has previously voiced concern around lowering the threshold for initiating statin therapy, which has significantly increased the number of patients eligible, due to the potential for over-diagnosis. Patients certainly have the right to question whether statins are the best course of therapy for them - as they do with any prescribed medication - and as with any long-term medication, it’s important that regular reviews are undertaken to determine if they are proving beneficial for the patient, based on their current circumstances." (my emphasis).

In other words, nothing is likely to happen. The study will be ignored because Statins are both safe, and effective. There is no suggestion that the threshold for giving healthy patients statin drugs should be raised. There is no suggestions that patients should be told. So whilst patients may have "the right to question"  how, when, and by whom will they be told? How will they find out about this new information?

In the meantime, as Pulse points out, the NHS is currently considering allowing a range of professionals to prescribe ‘low-risk’ medicines to patients. More 'primary prevention' without any evidence that it has any benefits.

Both the BMJ and Pulse articles are suggesting that there is a need for more information. As the study said, "we need to assess and understand the evidence underlying these trends." However, this is clearly not what the drug companies want to do. After all, statin drugs are one of the most commonly prescribed medicines in the world, with estimated sales said to be approaching $1 trillion by 2020. So, as is made clear in the article, the pharmaceutical industry is not playing the game!

               "Yet despite calls to make access to full clinical trial data a legal, regulatory, or ethical requirement, key statin trial data remain unavailable for independent analysis." (my emphasis).

So what are patients on statin drugs to do? Even if they do get to know? The study says that "we need to assess and understand the evidence underlying these trends" but conventional medicine will not agree to this. The drug companies don't want them to have access to important information that might affect their profitability.

So patients - carry on taking the Statins! Even if no-one knows exactly how safe, or how effective they are. Pharmaceutical profits are, after all, more important than our health!