SHOULD YOU BE WORRIED ABOUT STATINS?
Statin drugs should probably be in the water, like fluoride. These cholesterol-fighting wonders have been proven to prevent heart attacks and strokes, with only rare side effects. Recent studies hint that statins might fend off Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis and even cancer. The introduction of an article (The State of Statins) from the June 2004 issue of Smart Money.
Although the writing is on the wall for these drugs, Big Pharma will not go down without a fight, and are pushing back harder than ever. It was not that long ago that a young man (early 20's) came to see me for back pain. In the consult and examination, I found out he was taking a statin drug. He was on the thin side, so I figured he must have one of those genetic 'Hypercholesterolemia' things going on. Nope. In fact, before his doctor (someone I know) put him on statins, his total cholesterol was a too-low 125 (anything under 150 puts you at risk for all sorts of health problems including certain kinds of CANCER, hemorrhagic strokes, and DEPRESSION). His doctor was trying to get his total cholesterol under 100. When I asked him why, he told me the two reasons given for this. His dad had had a (non-fatal) heart attack a few years earlier ---- and he had good insurance. No joke! I was dumbfounded. Although he was young, what about statin drugs and the geriatric population?
STATIN DRUGS AND THE ELDERLY
- Cholesterol levels are not associated with cardiovascular disease events [chiefly heart attacks and strokes] in octogenarians without overt coronary artery disease;
- No randomized, controlled trials have assessed the role of statins in reducing events in octogenarians without coronary artery disease; and
- Statins may increase risks of myositis [muscle inflammation / pain], rhabdomyolysis [muscle deterioration / degeneration], and cancer [cancer] in the elderly. "
Who in the world would say something this outlandish? Some half-cocked idiot? Another one of those crazed hillbilly chiropractors from southern Missouri? Some psychopathically deranged hippie? Mad Magazine? Nope, nope, nope, and nope. The above quote was taken directly from the November / December 2003 issue of the American Journal of Geriatric Cardiology --- not exactly an Alfred E. Neuman publication! The study itself was done by a team of researchers at Yale University School of Medicine's Department of Internal Medicine.
Doctor Golomb's review individually cited almost 900 peer-reviewed medical studies dealing with the wide array of health problems associated with taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. What is the number one side effect of these drugs? Something called RHABDOMYOLYSIS. Let's look at this word for a moment. Rhabdo (striped) Myo (muscle) lysis (to break down or tear apart). Thus, Rhabdomyolysis is the break down of striped (skeletal) muscle. What did Dr. Golomb have to say about statins and cholesterol? "Muscle problems are the best known of statin drug's adverse side effects, but cognitive problems and peripheral neuropathy, or pain or numbness in the extremities like fingers and toes, are also widely reported."
Mitochondria are the part of the cell that create energy in the form of ATP (HERE). However, this process of making energy also creates something else. Free Radicals. Oxygen Free Radicals are harmful compounds that are a known cause of cancer. This is why we consume "antioxidants" in the form of foods (colorful vegetables, fruits, and berries). These antioxidants protect us against this process we call "Oxidation". When mitochondrial function is diminished for any reason, the body produces less energy and more "Free Radicals". This is a double whammy that not only causes various disease processes, it leaves you with a diminished ability to fight against them because your body is not making enough energy to do so.
Coenzyme Q10 ("Co-Q10") is a compound central to the energy-making process that occurs within mitochondria. It also acts as a powerful antioxidant whose other job is to "quench" the internal fire known as free radical oxidative damage. The problem with statin drugs, however, is that they lower Q10 levels. They do this because they are designed to block the metabolic pathway involved in cholesterol production ---- the very same pathway which produces the body's supply of Co-Q10. How big is the loss of anti-oxidative power in the body? Just listen to the words of Dr. Golomb.
"The loss of Q10 leads to loss of cell energy and increased free radicals which, in turn, can further damage mitochondrial DNA." Because statins cause progressively more mitochondrial damage over time ---- and as these energy powerhouses tend to weaken with age ---- new and more severe adverse effects tend to develop the longer a patient takes statin drugs. Golomb goes on to say, "The risk of adverse effects goes up as age goes up, and this helps explain why. This also helps explain why statins' benefits have not been found to exceed their risks in those over 70 or 75 years old, even those with heart disease." Furthermore, both high blood pressure and diabetes are linked to higher rates of mitochondrial dysfunction. This is why say the study's co-authors, these conditions are consistent with a higher risk of statin side effects.
Golomb goes on to explain in a recent interview, "From the reports that come into us, people are experiencing severe muscle weakness, which is also linked to cognitive problems. We're really interested in the balance of risks and benefits of these drugs. There are lots and lots of people looking at the benefit side. There are so few people evaluating the [risk] side. You can bet that the $20 billion a year in statin drug company revenue is going to make sure that any promising lead looking at potential benefits will be followed." You know what? She is right. I will get to this topic soon enough, but suffice it to say that there a whole host of doctors screaming the same things at the top of their lungs. Unfortunately, they are being drowned out by Big Pharma's never ending 'noise' about the need for every American to be on Statins. Think I'm kidding?
Not very long ago, "Sir" Rory Collins, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the Clinical Trial Service Unit of Oxford University stated, "Give statins to all over-50s: Even the healthy should take the heart drug". Sir Rory happens to be the lead researcher on one of one of the biggest cholesterol studies in history. His study's conclusions are that lowering LDL cholesterol with statins is safe, effective, and saves large numbers of lives. And where did the money for his research come from? Three places:
- The British Heart Foundation
- The National Health Service (NHS)
- UK Biobank
I know you'll all be shocked to hear this, but Sir Rory just happens to be the Principal Investor and Chief Executive of Biobank. How much money are we talking about here? Try £62 million on for size! That's 100 million dollars for those of you keeping score at home. This does not even begin to take into account the fact that Sir Rory has received money from numerous Pharmaceutical Corporations. Is this a conflict of interest? Let's ask the companies involved. Some of the bigger companies you have no doubt heard of before.
- Bristol-Myers Squibb
- Schering (not to be confused with Schierling)
- Solvay (a huge chemical manufacturing corporation)
DO STATINS LOWER CANCER RATES?
In recent years the news has headlined numerous stories saying things like, "Cholesterol Drugs May Lower Cancer Risk" But is this really true? I have always been under the impression that statin drugs increase the risk of cancer, not lower it. So, where is this information coming from, and who can we trust to give us the straight dope on this issue? It seems that a study done several years ago in Israel looked at the medical records of over 200,000 people and came to the conclusion that statin drugs decrease cancer rates.
The study, published in the medical journal Preventing Chronic Disease, said that patients who regularly took statin drugs for the longest time had the lowest rates of cancer over the 7 years of the study. Their conclusions? The authors stated that their study, "demonstrated that persistent use of statins is associated with a lower overall cancer risk..... the association between statins and cancer incidence may be relevant for cancer prevention." Bear in mind that this and other statin studies have been dissected to show that their lower cancer rates claim is at best, grossly exaggerated; and at worst, completely false.
In a recent study of the effects of statins on the elderly, nearly six thousand people aged 70-82 were given either a statin or placebo over a three year period. Cancer rates were one quarter greater in the statin group. Another study (a meta-analysis) looked at the results of several different studies, finding that the combination of statin drugs and the cholesterol-lowering drug Ezetimibe (Vytorin), was associated with a forty five percent increased risk of dying of cancer. Read that last sentence a couple more times and let it sink in!
FDA CALLS FOR STILL LOWER CHOLESTEROL LEVELS
Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently ruled that labels for statin drugs must include warnings about some of the side effects associated with statins (memory loss, confusion, Type II Diabetes, and myopathy / rhabdomyolysis / muscle & tendon problems), they keep lowering the levels of what is considered to be a "normal" cholesterol level. For the past three decades, Big Pharma will parade their "homegrown" research by the FDA, showing them that cholesterol is the Great Satan --- the leading cause of our country's number one killer; heart disease. The goal is always the same. They want the FDA to step in yet again and change (lower) what constitutes a healthy cholesterol number. This has been done over and over again, and means that more and more people will be told they have high cholesterol, and subsequently need to be on statin drugs. I realize that statins dramatically lower cholesterol. However, there are a whole host of Physicians, Researchers, and Scientists telling us that we are being bamboozled by the drug companies. What's going on here?
Dr. John Briffa, contributing editor on THE CHOLESTEROL TRUTH, has been exposing countless flawed statin trials on their blog, revealing one of the biggest medical cons of our time in the process. On their site, he also explains why cholesterol is not the villain it is made out to be and how the mainstream has got hold of the wrong end of the stick when it comes to heart disease prevention. What are the most common Statin Drugs in America? Here's a short list
- Advicor (lovastatin with niacin) – Abbott
- Altoprev (lovastatin) – Shionogi Pharma
- Caduet [atorvastatin with amlodipine (Norvasc)] – Pfizer
- Crestor (rosuvastatin) - AstraZeneca
- Lescol (fluvastatin) – Novartis
- Lipitor (atorvastatin) - Pfizer
- Mevacor (lovastatin) – Merck
- Pravachol (pravastatin) -- Bristol-Myers Squibb
- Simcor (niacin/imvastatin) – Abbott
- Vytorin (ezetimibe/simvastatin) – Merck/Schering-Plough
- Zocor (simvastatin) – Merck
BUT WHAT ABOUT ALL THE RESEARCH THAT SHOWS
HOW MANY LIVES STATIN DRUGS ARE SAVING EACH YEAR?
A few years ago, a study known as the JUPITER Trial suggested cholesterol-lowering statin drugs might even prevent heart-related deaths in many more people than just those with high cholesterol. However, researchers now say that the JUPITER results were flawed -- seriously flawed! Not only is there no "striking decrease in coronary heart disease complications", but a new report has also called into question drug company's involvement in this and similar drug studies. What did an ABC News expose have to say about this study?
"... major discrepancies exists between the significant reductions in nonfatal stroke and heart attacks reported in the JUPITER trial and what has been found in other research ... 'The JUPITER data set appears biased."
But how can "research" be biased? After all, isn't it all independent --- isn't it? No it's not. Let me give you one example out of thousands. A few years ago, the sugar industry published a study saying that high amounts of sugar did not cause behavior problems in children. If you are a parent, common sense will tell you otherwise. So where was the sleight of hand? The studies compared the behavior two groups of children. Group I (the control) was given the sugar equivalent of about 18 cupcakes a day. Group II (the experimental group) was given not quite double this amount of sugar. When BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS were compared between the two groups of children, there was no statistical difference. Duh! I wonder why? If you want to see a picture of what financial conflict-of-interest looks like in Big Pharma, HERE is one.
Pretty soon I am going to hit you a few of the actual studies on statin drugs. I promise that you will not only be shocked, you will be ticked off about the way you have been duped. In the mean time, here are some of the areas to watch with particular diligence.
- NEUROLOGICAL PROBLEMS: These include amnesia, forgetfulness, confusion, the tendency to be disoriented, increased symptoms of senility, short-term memory loss. I will never forget reading the story of Mike Hope in an issue of Smart Money a decade ago. The neurological side effects of statin drugs are devastating, and frequently permanent.
- MUSCLE PAIN: Although muscle pain is the most common side effect of statin drugs, calling it "Muscle Pain" is extremely (and purposefully) misleading. Like I said earlier, this side effect is technically called Rhambomyosis or Rhabdomyolysis. It is not simply pain or muscle soreness. It is pain, muscle soreness, and weakness caused by the degeneration of your muscles. Although many people on statins have mild to moderate increases in muscle and joint pain and / or fatigue, I have seen numerous cases that are totally debilitating. The first thing I want to know when people come to me for SCAR TISSUE REMODELING is whether they are on a statin.
- LIVER DAMAGE: People who start statin drugs should have their liver enzymes checked via a blood test about six weeks after starting the drug. One of the side effects of statin use is increased production of liver enzymes, which has the potential to cause permanent liver damage.
- COMPLICATIONS WITH DIGESTION: These usually take the form of nausea, diarrhea, constipation, or abdominal pain. As I said earlier, this is due to in part to the fact that statin drugs alter your body's ability to metabolize fats and sugars properly.
- MIGRAINE HEADACHES & REGULAR HEADACHES: I deal with lots of people with chronic headaches (HERE). If you are prone to either you may find that statin use will trigger your headaches and migraines more often as well as allowing them to become more severe / intense. Dizziness and flu-like symptoms are also side-effects along these lines.
There are a growing number of scientists and doctors who believe that in most cases, high cholesterol and fatty build up on the arterial walls is a function of INFLAMMATION. For more information on this subject, I would suggest you go HERE.