July 29, 2004

Statins and Cholesterol

The old saw says "Let a sleeping dog lie." Right. Still, when there is much at stake it is better to get a newspaper to do it.

Mark Twain

Drug companies have made a coup that will make them many more billions of dollars. Articles in newspapers and TV news reports have, without exactly saying so, left the reader with the impression that anyone with a high cholesterol should be taking statins. They have done this without actually lying.

I am in my eightieth year. This year, my cholesterol was 277 (normal is less than 200 and mine is considered high risk), my LDL(so-called bad cholesterol) is 184 (normal is less than 129 and mine is considered high risk). So how come I haven't had a heart attack and my blood pressure is considered high normal? My mother died at 91 and my father, who was a heavy smoker, died in his eighties of congestive heart failure, probably due to his smoking. I am absolutely certain that I will die and that it will almost certainly be in the next 20 years.

The drug companies would like me to be taking a statin drug. Why? Because it means many billions in their already bulging coffers.

An article in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat has a headline that says "New rules for cutting cholesterol may affect millions." The article states that the National Cholesterol Education Program recommends using higher levels of the drugs to bring LDL levels down further than had been recommended. This recommendation has been endorsed by the National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology. The recommendations for increased doses of statins are based on studies of heart attack patients and show improved survival with higher doses of statins. After reading many articles in medical journals, I am convinced. If I had had a heart attack, I would take high levels of statins for the rest of my life. But I have never had a heart attack. The long-term side effects of the drugs on people who have not had a heart attack will not be known for some time. There is no doubt that large numbers of people who have normal blood pressure and have never had a heart attack are taking statins. Hopefully, a large number of these people are being followed. I would guess, along with Dr. Ravnskov (The Cholesterol Myths, 2000 New Trends Publishing), that if they do not have the gene for hypercholesterolemia and early heart attack, that they will not be benefited and might be harmed, not to mention a substantial dent in their bank account.

If, like me, you have high cholesterol and have normal blood pressure and have no evidenced of heart disease, I suggest that you might want to read the column on my web site on The Cholesterol Myths at (http://www.mcn.org/c/irapilgrim/med39.html) before you decide to take a statin drug for the rest of your life.

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