Updated: Mar 3, 2019
You’re sitting in your doctor’s office, fidgeting in your seat awaiting him or her to give you the news about your last health checkup. As you observe the doctor looking down at their notes you wonder whether it is difficult for them to constantly have to break bad news to their patients, or if it just rolls off them like water from a ducks back. Then the time arrives. They tap the stack of medical reports once on their desk. A gesture that tells you they are done, it is time, and to hold your breath because it might be bad. They give you a wry smile, use your full name then tell you that they recommend you start on a statin drug to lower your cholesterol.
And then you exhale….That’s it? That’s all you got? Then you start to wonder why you are being told to consider a statin drug when your LDL cholesterol is 100 and your total cholesterol is 180. They explain to you that there are new guidelines for cholesterol now.
Here is a fact that has been known for quite a long time, but it is still news to many people. People with higher cholesterol levels actually live longer than people with lower cholesterol levels. Crazy right? I mean how can that possibly be true? But the reason why this fact is not really well-known to the general public is because it would put a huge dent into a $100 BILLION drug market for statin sales.
But it couldn’t possibly be about profit versus your health right? I mean who would do that. But consider this. Approximately one out every four Americans over the age of 50 are currently prescribed a statin drug, a drug with very serious side effects and a drug with a low level of protection from the disease it’s supposed to stop, heart disease.
Let’s face it, statin drugs have been around for 27 years now, since then the rate of heart disease has barely budged. What is most disturbing is the serious side effects of statin drugs. We have known for quite some time now that these drugs deliver a serious side effect punch. What is interesting is that the FDA did not bother to issue any warnings until 2012. Why did it take the FDA so long? It could be that statin drugs are the most successful class of drugs of all time in terms of sales? Did you catch that? ALL TIME? Lipitor is by far the most profitable drug in the history of mankind among all pharmaceutical products, let alone being the most profitable cholesterol drug before its patent expired at the end of 2011. Sales to date from this one particular cholesterol-lowering statin drug have exceeded $140 billion.
It was Lipitor who benefited from the change in marketing laws in 1997 that allowed pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. to advertise their products directly to consumers. Pfizer has now been able to convince an entire generation of Americans that they need a pill to lower their cholesterol in order to prevent heart disease! This is perhaps one of the most brilliant and unethical marketing schemes of all time, and it was sanctioned by the FDA who said nothing until AFTER Lipitor’s patent expired in late 2011. Right after that (a few months) the FDA issued its first warnings against statin drugs, which included: liver injury, memory loss, diabetes, and muscle damage. Then the lawsuits started of course. Since April 2014 over 1100 law suits have been filed claiming the drugs have caused muscle damage, muscle wasting and turned people into diabetics.
But now there’s new evidence that statins do much more than just harm your muscles and turn you into a diabetic. Yep, a recent study found that women taking statin drugs double their risk of breast cancer. Another study published in the journal Drug Safety found a relationship between regular statin drug use and Bell’s palsy, a neurologic disorder.
Another study at Tulane University found that statins may also prematurely age stem cells, potentially unmasking a hidden culprit behind adverse side effects, such as memory loss, muscle problems and increased risk for diabetes.
Here’s the rub though. It appears that the very thing that statins cause (low cholesterol) actually turns out to be more harmful that the risk of heart disease for most people. A paper in the European Heart Journal found that low cholesterol is associated with a high mortality in patients with coronary heart disease. They stated that you are 2.27 times MORE likely to have a heart attack if your cholesterol is low. They also stated that the most frequent cause of non-cardiac death in patients with low cholesterol was cancer. Another study by the American Heart Association in 1994 stated that low cholesterol was often accompanied by an increased risk of hemopoietic, esophageal and prostate cancers. This latter fact is interesting since it proves that the American Heart Association have known that there was an increased frequency of death in those on statin drugs since at least 1994 even though they still heavily recommend the drug’s use! It would also point a finger at the FDA who ignored this little fact until 2012.
In light of this information we must assume that something is more amiss than a simple total cholesterol issue. In the past, science has responded by reclassifying cholesterol into classes of good (HDL) or bad (LDL) cholesterol particles but there’s one problem with that thinking, there’s more than one type of cholesterol, and you need cholesterol to live. That’s right, if you remove all the cholesterol from your body you will die. Your cells would literally fall apart since every cell in your body requires cholesterol as a sort of glue that holds it all together. A stellar portion of your brain is also cholesterol, so again, remove it and we would have a massive stroke and die. Some studies do in fact find a correlation between low cholesterol and stroke incidence. So other than cholesterol not being a particularly good predictor of heart attacks, it turns out we need the stuff to live.
It also turns out that not all “bad” cholesterol is actually bad anyway. The dreaded LDL particle form of cholesterol comes in more than one form. Some appear large and fluffy when viewed and other small and dense. It happens that the small dense particles of cholesterol are a better predictor of heart attacks than your total cholesterol.
That means that a total cholesterol reading without a particle analysis is virtually meaningless as far as reducing your risk of heart disease or attacks! One of the best documentaries exposing the statin quandary was aired in Australia. The medical authorities tried to ban it but were not successful in preventing it from being aired on TV. They were able to force ABC to remove the links from their website. I found a copy on YouTube that is an interesting view.
So, based on the evidence presented, statins don’t work, but they do cause a lot of side effects. The pharmaceutical industry has responded, not by changing the treatment, but by offering a new class of cholesterol lowering drugs called PCSK9 inhibitors.
These PCSK9 inhibitors are also known as monoclonal antibodies which can bind to LDL-cholesterol receptors on the cell walls where they can be absorbed and broken down. The result is that circulating LDL-cholesterol receptors will bind the circulating LDL-cholesterol, lowering serum cholesterol levels.
Two drugs have recently been released that function as PCSK9 inhibitors: Alirocumab and Evolocumab. The names will change over time as one or the other drugs side effects are exposed as damaging, but until then we will be the test rats. The costs for these medications average around $10-15,000 per year by the way.
Now, since these new drugs are intended for patients who have cardiovascular disease, one would think that the PCSK9 drugs have been proven to have a benefit in treating/preventing cardiovascular disease, right? I mean why introduce a new drug to do the same as the old drug, especially if it costs more. It must be so much better than the old drug. But I find no, zero, yes that’s nada studies that show the PCSK9 inhibitor as effective. The studies I did find actually reveal an increased risk of cardiac issues.
Once again, the FDA approve a new class of medications based solely on a surrogate marker—lowering cholesterol levels which already show a more lethal potential to whoever takes the drug, and to make matters worse, the long term effects are as yet unknown.
No matter how you spin it, statin drugs have failed to lower risk of premature death and actually increases risks of other issues such as memory loss, myopathy, cataract formation, muscle fatigue and pain, and diabetes. Further research shows that statins increase artery calcification which increases risk of heart attack, not reduce it.
If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might conclude that the statin drug, with all its accompanied side effects is simply a gateway drug to prescribe yet more drugs to counter the side effects of the statins, and thus further drive the profit margins of the pharmaceutical industry. Remember, a few years back the AMA allowed the medical lobby of big pharma to lower the upper acceptable cholesterol numbers in order to more effectively protect a larger segment of the population. In other words, more people would now qualify for statin drug therapy.
These decisions were made by panelists from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology but who had literally stacked their panel of experts with people known to accept large payments from pharmaceutical companies. These pharma-endorsed individuals were asked to redefine the cholesterol limits, but obviously did it in a way that maximized their profits. Under the new guidelines one third of the US adult population would qualify to begin statin therapy, which is double the current number (15%). Sounds like a set up to me if there ever was one, but most important to understand here is that no evidence exists for the patient’s protection against heart attacks. Statins certainly don’t qualify.
The problem with this new calculator is that it dramatically overestimates your risk. A paper written by Harvard Medical School professors Dr. Ridker and Cook estimate that the calculator conveniently overestimates by 75-150%, meaning someone in a no risk group would easily be moved to a treatment recommended group for statin use. Other researchers have suggested that the flaw appears to place all men over the age of 60 automatically into a risk category for treatment even if they don’t need it.
The problem is we keep getting studies which are supposedly “research” but are laden with conflicts of interest. This has been allowed to happen, or at least have not been stopped from happening and is especially problematic when commercial interests are at stake. The tobacco industry and their willingness to suppress evidence that revealed negative effects on human health is a great example of this. We need to understand that company sponsored “experts” are paid by the company they are supporting and as such would be unlikely to say anything negative or contrary. Don’t think so? Well, another example would be the well-respected epidemiologist Stephen Blair who sold his soul to Coca-Cola and attempted to hide the relationship of soda and obesity.
It could be argued that the patent on statin drugs has expired therefore it’s no longer an issue. But when you consider that statin drug prescriptions in the US alone has increased 20%, one can quickly see that even though the patent has expired there is still money to be made. How much money? Some $264 million a year just from statin drugs. With some 300 million people in the US, that number is a staggering reality. Globally that number rises to $35 billion.
If you have ever read the book Selling Sickness by Moyniham and Cassels you may have a clearer picture. In the book it talks about then-CEO of Merk who had a goal to be more like Wrigley’s Chewing Gum insofar as making drugs available to healthy people at any time. But make no mistake, if one company has such a goal, other do too. There’s so much of this going on that the US had to create whistleblower laws to protect those who came forward to expose these companies.
So buyer and patient alike be aware. The FDA appears to approve all these drugs before they have been fully tested only to demand warning signs on the drugs after they kill or maim enough of us to warrant such action. To be certain, they are not out to protect you and I. If they were, why did they allow a drug to be approved and then prescribed to so many people that increased their risk of breast cancer 83-143%.
Now you have to ask yourself why you are on this drug if it’s so bad. And I have no good answer for you other than to talk about the counters for the side effects of this drug and the possibility to a lifestyle change to get off of it. Truth is your cholesterol will naturally increase as you age. That said, unless you are over 330 total cholesterol or have the type of small dense cholesterol that causes heart attacks in men under 55.
That said, if your doctor is telling you to check your total cholesterol, know that this test will tell you virtually nothing about your risk of heart disease, unless it is 330 or higher. HDL percentage is a far more potent indicator for heart disease risk. there are two ratios you should pay attention to however. First your HDL/Total Cholesterol Ratio. That should ideally be above 24 percent. If it’s below 10 percent, you have a significantly elevated risk for heart disease. Last, your triglyceride/HDL Ratio. This should be below a two. Other risk factors include a fasting insulin level; any meal or snack high in carbohydrates like fructose and refined grains generates a rapid rise in blood glucose and then insulin to compensate for the rise in blood sugar. The insulin released from eating too many carbs promotes fat production and makes it more difficult for your body to shed excess weight, and excess fat, particularly around your belly is a major contributor to heart disease. Obviously this ties into your fasting blood sugar levels too. Studies have shown that people with a fasting blood sugar level of 100-125 mg/dl have a nearly 300 percent increase higher risk of having coronary heart disease than people with a level below 79 mg/dl.
A major issue with statin drugs is that they deplete your body of Co-Enzyme Q10 (CoQ10). Therefore, if you take a statin, you MUST take a supplemental CoQ10, or better, the reduced form called ubiquinol. 200mg/day of CoQ10 is recommended.
Obviously lifestyle changes are paramount too. You should eliminate sugars and grains from your diet and replace them with vegetables and healthy fats. Studies find protection with more animal based fats such as omega-3 fish oil, and ensuring your vitamin D levels are optimal.
Lifestyle changes are not complete of course without a solid exercise plan. You should ensure you get enough cardiovascular activity and strength train to maximize your health.
So the next time you find yourself sitting in front of that pill pushing doctor, understand that you do have other options. Try the healthy lifestyle changes first before you succumb to popping another drug.