Updated: Sep 4, 2019
An interesting article titled, "Do statins really work? Who benefits? Who has the power to cover up the side effects?" published today in the journal "European Scientist." It is reproduced here in full. Indeed it is controversial and brings up some important points, particularly on statin benefits.
Before you read the article below, consider this statement published by Harvard Medical School:https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/cholesterol-the-mind-and-the-brain
Despite its well-deserved notoriety as a cause of heart disease, cholesterol is essential for human health. It is the building block of steroid hormones, including the stress hormonecortisol and the male and female sex hormones, including testosterone and the estrogens. Cholesterol is also an essential component of the membranes that surround all human cells. More than simply holding cells together, these membranes have a crucial role in regulating cell function and allowing chemicals to pass into and out of cells.
Earlier this week, the Chair of the British Parliament Science and Technology Committee, Sir Norman Lamb MP made calls for a full investigation into cholesterol lowering statin drugs. It was instigated after a letter was written to him signed by a number of eminent international doctors including the editor of the BMJ, the Past President of the Royal College of Physicians and the Director of the Centre of Evidence Based Medicine in Brazil wrote a letter calling for a full parliamentary inquiry into the controversial medication. It’s lead author Cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra makes the case for why’s there’s an urgent need for such an investigation in European Scientist.
A few weeks ago, an alarmed and confused patient in his late forties, who I shall call Mr Smith, came to see me for a consultation. Four years earlier he suffered a heart attack where severe blockages were found in his right coronary artery. These were opened up and kept open with metal stents.
He was prescribed atorvastatin, which is standard practice for heart attack patients regardless of cholesterol levels. Unfortunately, the atorvastatin caused severe muscle pains on exercise. Fortunately, his symptoms disappeared within a week of stopping the drug.
As an alternative to his statin, he decided to adopt an ultra-low fat vegan diet which he believed may halt, even reverse heart disease through lowering cholesterol. Within months he dropped his total cholesterol by 40% from 5.2mmol/L to 3.2, now placing his levels in the bottom five per cent of the population.
Despite sticking religiously to the diet, he began to develop chest pain when he did exercise, and a repeat heart scan showed a seventy per cent blockage in another artery, one that had been completely clear four years before. “How is this possible?” he asked me, clearly upset. ‘How could I develop more heart disease in such a short space of time with such low cholesterol?’
I explained to him his case was not unusual, nor inexplicable.
It’s been almost 35 years since scientists Brown and Goldstein won the Nobel prize for discovering how blood cholesterol played a central role in development of heart disease. It was their work that led to pharmaceutical industry developing statins.
These are drugs that lower cholesterol, and they both reduced heart attacks, and extended lifespan, within a few years of prescription. Just how significant the impact was and how reliable this data is we’ll come to later. In 1996, Goldstein and Brown confidently predicted that we may now see the end of heart disease before the beginning of the 21st century .
However, their prophecy was never fulfilled. On the contrary the decades long campaign to lower cholesterol through diet and drugs has completely and utterly failed to curb the global pandemic of heart disease. Indeed, heart disease still remains the biggest killer in the western world and the UK has recently seen a rise in death rates from the condition for the first time in 50 years .
It is still little known or understood amongst the wider medical community th