Weighing the Pros and Cons of Statin Therapy

by Colin Carmichael

Weighing the pros and cons of statin therapy.

That's what a group of researchers did recently for a study to be published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The authors concluded that there's no conclusive evidence that statin therapy causes loss of cognitive function or increases risk of cancer. And they feel the risk of diabetes from statin usage is low enough that clinical practice for statins should not be changed for patients with higher cardio risk or existing heart disease.

Yet, there's enough evidence supporting the cognitive function issue that earlier this year, the FDA announced changes to statin drug labeling.

That seemed a little strange to me, so I took a look at the information provided for the authors of this study.

Turns out the authors of this observational study have received research grant support and spoke at meetings sponsored by mega pharmaceutical companies such as…

  • Astra-Zeneca
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Eli Lilly and Co.
  • Genzyme
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Merck-Schering-Plough
  • Pfizer
  • OrbusNeich
  • Novartis
  • Regeneron
  • Roche
  • Servier
  • Sanofi Aventis

And that's not even a complete list!

I’ll let you decide the level of objectivity of these authors when it comes to their findings on statin drugs.

Here's one of their (cough, cough) unbiased claims…

Statins are well tolerated and are believed to have minimal adverse effects. Most common adverse effects are myopathies, elevations of liver enzymes, and very rarely, rhabdomyolysis.

So statins are well tolerated with minimal side effects?

Really? Since when?

If you or people you know have ever taken a statin drug, you know how ridiculous it is to suggest that this is a well-tolerated product.

But let's dig into something a little meatier…

Numerous observational studies have reported an association between low plasma cholesterol levels and higher risk of cancer.

They acknowledge this and then attempt to refute it.

They turn this into a correlation vs. causation argument suggesting that the cancer is what is causing the low levels of cholesterol vs. the low cholesterol being the cause of the cancer.

They even go so far as to suggest that … wait for it … patients with low levels of cholesterol simply live longer and thus, live so long that they eventually develop cancer.

I'm not even going to touch that one in this article.

Moving on…

They then point to a Mendelian randomization study that isolated subjects by their ApoE genotype and found no correlation.

Here's what you need to know about ApoE…

ApoE is critical for the normal assimilation of triglyceride-rich lipoprotein components. ApoE has long been recognized for its role in lipoprotein metabolism and cardiovascular disease.

So the factor they chose to isolate is a key component to cholesterol health. Did they just prove no causation or in fact, muddy the waters?

Or does this actually point to what many of us have been saying for years … that it’s not the quantity of cholesterol, but the quality of the cholesterol that matters most.

But let’s say for the sake of discussion that their argument has merit. That it's the cancer that causes low cholesterol and not the other way around.

Does that make you feel any better about having low cholesterol?

Think about it.

They want us to play the “cholesterol limbo” game of lower is better, right?

Does it make any sense at all that cancer … which wreaks total havoc and chaos on the body … would be good for your cholesterol levels?

Does cancer regulate and optimize the levels of any other nutrients in the body?

The way I look at this … regardless of the type of correlation … it’s a correlation that screams that lower cholesterol levels isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

You want healthy, balanced and optimized cholesterol levels … not necessarily the lower and lower levels that doctors are trying to attain through statin drug therapy.

> J Am Coll Cardiol. 2012;():. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2012.07.007

> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apolipoprotein_E
> Am. J. Epidemiol. (2009) 170 (11): 1415-1421. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwp294

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