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Statins: Reality vs. Hype

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Statins are touted as miracle drugs, but are they really as effective at saving lives as the claims imply?

CLAIM: Statins reduce cardiovascular events by 30 to 40%.

THE REAL WORLD: Those numbers come from the drug company selling the drug. They are citing results comparing the statin group to the placebo group in their own sponsored product trial. But watch out! They are showing only the numbers they want you to see, and not talking about the numbers they don't want you to know about.

What they are not telling you is roughly 100 people had to take the drug to prevent one cardiovascular event ( heart attack, stroke, or death from CVD causes.) The other 99 people taking the drug got no benefit. This is called the NUMBER NEEDED TO TREAT. Meaning 100 people had to take the drug for just one person to benefit. In this scenario only 1 person in 100 avoided a heart attack, so the absolute risk reduction is only 1%. That's a far cry from the 30 to 40% in the advertisements.

Statins are very effective at lowering cholesterol. No question about that. But preventing heart disease, heart attacks and strokes is another story. And few consumers are aware just how ineffective these drugs are.

MEDIA CLAIM: Statins have saved millions of lives.

REALITY: People who take statins don't live one day longer than those who don't, nor do the drug companies make any longevity claims. They know better than to do that.

Heart disease began its decline in the United States after 1968, and has steadily declined since then. Statins came onto the market in 1987. The decline rate in heart disease deaths pre and post statins has remained unchanged.
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First Helper JamyBram

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replied June 25th, 2012
You are entitled to your opinion.
Statins are not God's gift to mankind, but they have had important and desirable effects. Certainly they are not the total answer to atherosclerosis and hypercholesterolemia, but they play a desirable role. Indeed, there is good evidence that statins may have a salutary effect on heart attacks and longevity in persons with normal cholesterol levels.
Yes, statins do have side-effects and some persons cannot take them. Yes, the pharmaceutical companies have promoted statin use. However, there are now generic statins that are quite inexpensive and effective.
The future may bring drugs that are more effective than statins on lipid metabolism.
Please keep in mind that I am unable to diagnose medical conditions online.

An easy-to-read book about the heart for lay persons. Available at major online book retailers and other fine bookstores.
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replied June 27th, 2012
Experienced User
Maybe one day we will have a pill that produces better endpoint outcomes than statins.

Meanwhile statins are very effective at lowering cholesterol, but have NNT scores in the Stratosphere, resulting in very low absolute risk reductions.

Looking at the big picture, the overall track record of statins on death rates from heart disease isn't the greatest. I can't change history. The drugs had no impact on enhancing the decline rate of death from heart disease in the US.

Infact, we had a steeper decline in CVD deaths before statins came on the market.

I do believe one day we will fully understand the mechanism behind the development of artery plaque. Until that day we have only theories marketed as the absolute truth. Its humbling to accept how very little we really know about this disease.
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replied October 31st, 2012
Statins pain and good diet
I am sticking to ground zero foods (when you look at what you are eating you know what it is - an apple is an apple not apple pulp in a can) which have been relatively little processed or preferably come straight from the garden or dairy or butcher or baker. Inevitably my diet is fresh, tasty, easy to prepare ( I assemble rather than cook) and includes 5 vegetables and 2-3 fruit each day as well as whole milk, small amount of butter, usually an egg, small serves of meat and fish, virtually no processed carbs like pasta, very little sugar - couple of teaspoons in a coffee each morning and if anyone tellas me I should take statins again after the pain and dizziness - well fooey!
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