Questions about Statins Hitting Mainstream Media More

The medical usefulness of cholesterol-lowering statin drugsĀ  has been largely debunked in the medical literature for a decade or more, but thanks to heavy promoting by pharmaceutical companies that produces some dubiously positive studies and sucks in gullible media, ill-informed (or corrupt) doctors, and naive members of the public, they’ve continued to be one of the most widely-prescribed drugs in North America. But more and more we’re seeing articles like this CBC story:

The medical community is debating the pros and cons of using statins for prevention as more independent research comes out on side-effects. This week, a study in JAMA Internal Medicine suggested statins may be associated with an increase in musculoskeletal conditions and pain, especially in physically active individuals.

“If you look at all the studies that have ever been done with statins for primary prevention, so for people who have never had a heart attack or a stroke, if you give a statin to a patient for about five years we can reduce the chance of a person having a heart attack or a stroke by about one per cent,” said James McCormack, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of British Columbia.

Other potential side-effects include risk of Type 2 diabetes, reversible muscle damage and short-term kidney damage.

In Canada, as in the U.S., the majority of statin prescriptions go to primary prevention patients, not people with established heart disease, said Dr. Lee Green, a professor and chair of the department of family medicine at the University of Alberta who has surveyed doctors on their prescribing.

“It seems we need to retrain physicians, and the public, to focus on actual risks, not on a convenient number like cholesterol level,” Green said in an email.

Maybe the trend will start to abate…?