Statin Drugs: Worth the Risk?

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Interviewer:  We mentioned statin drugs--probably some of the most more popular legally prescribed drugs on the planet. Helpful? 

Lipitor is the most successful drug of all time, actually.

Interviewer:  More helpful or more harm, in general?

Dr. Jonny Bowden: I think they're overprescribed. I think the side effects are underreported. They do, do some good. You know, it's so funny--talk about being attacked from the left and from the right, much like with the political campaigns, and Obama being attacked from the left also. We actually got some pushback from our colleagues in writing this book; one in particular, I'll call them out: the Weston Price Society, big fan of them, would not endorse the book because we allowed a window in which statins might be helpful for some people. They were like, 'We are black and white on this. Statins are poison!' 

They're not poison; they're overprescribed and they have a lot of side effects, and there are probably better ways, and they're being prescribed to populations they shouldn't be prescribed to: women, for example. There's never been a study shown ever that a single woman's life was ever saved by a statin drug.

Some of the data, some of the bad things about statins tend to be hidden in the data. You've got to look for it. Yeah, there might have been one or two less cases of heart disease in the statin group, but who knows--one or two more cases of cancer and diabetes in the non-statin. I'm sorry; a little bit less heart disease in the statin group but also, that was also offset by more deaths from other diseases in the statin group. No lives were saved! So what's that connection? Statin drugs raise blood sugar. In certain people they may predispose to diabetes. As Steve was talking about the Women's Health Initiative, where there was a double-digit increase in diabetes in the statin group; muscle pain, fatigue, loss of memory. 

There was a former NASA M.D., flight surgeon doctor, Dr. Duane Graveline, who wrote a book called Lipitor: Thief of Memory. He experienced transient global amnesia, which is the worst kind of memory loss. You don't remember who you went to--never mind what you ate for breakfast yesterday, which I can't remember, you don't remember your wife's name; you don't remember what your name is. It's the most frightening--I read his discussion of what happened. This is an M.D. who was a senior scientist at NASA. Granted, that doesn't happen all the time, but there are these side effects, because cholesterol is needed for the brain.

My theory: no coincidence that we have had a quote, unquote 'epidemic of erectile dysfunction.' Cholesterol is needed for the sex hormones. How many middle-aged men are on statin drugs, and they're wondering where their libido went, and they don't see any connection. The worst part of this is that the studies show very clearly, doctors tend to not believe patients when they tell them about the side effects. 

There's a study out of Stanford. We talk about it in the book. Sixty-five percent of physicians dismissed the reports of side effects from statins. They thought it was completely something else. A guy would come in and say, 'Doc, I can't remember anything!' 'You're getting older.'

'Doc, I've got muscle pain.' 'You're getting arthritis.' They wouldn't believe. They were so brainwashed by the marketing the drug companies have done on this stuff, and the perky little reps that come to their office with samples, that they literally couldn't wrap their mind around the fact that this drug may have been causing these side effects. We have a drug that's very underreported in side effects, that's insidiously being marketed to populations in which it has no business, such as children and women. 

Statins have a modest benefit in one population, and that is middle-aged men who've already had a heart attack; middle-aged men who have cardiovascular disease. And it does a number of good things: it stabilizes plaque, because stable plaque is not going to be a problem. Unstable plaque--boing, you know, you've got your clot. It thins the blood a little bit. It turns it from red ketchup-looking into something that flows a little bit more; and it's mildly anti-inflammatory. But the benefits are very exaggerated. They only exist in this one population, and you can probably get a lot of those benefits using other things like Omega-3's, for example, or curcumin, or resveratrol. 

I'm not 100% opposed. I don't think this medicine is the spawn of Satan.  I think it's overused and needs to be used with a lot more caution in a much smaller population, which is directly against--if you're the stockholder in Pfizer or Merck, you want to see your audience expand. You want to open up markets. You don't want to go, 'You know what? This stuff isn't really so good for these people, let's not advertise it.' No, you want 11 million more customers when you open it up to children; you want that. Their needs and what I think our needs are, are kind of at loggerheads on this.


Dr. Jonny Bowden discusses the pros and cons of statin drugs. He says they're over prescribed and prescribed to populations that don't need them. He says there are a few benefits though. Find out what those are, here.

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