A recent comment published in The Lancet challenges proposed guidelines for the use of statin drugs (lipitor, crestor, etc) for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. The authors point out that the crafters of the new guidelines cited several studies that were used to form their opinions, “Yet not one of the studies provides such evidence.” The authors go on to analyze each of the studies that supposedly support statin use:
“Our analysis suggests that lipid-lowering statins should not be prescribed for true primary prevention in women of any age or for men older than 69 years. High-risk men aged 30–69 years should be advised that about 50 patients need to be treated for 5 years to prevent one event. In our experience, many men presented with this evidence do not choose to take a statin, especially when informed of the potential benefits of lifestyle modification on cardiovascular risk and overall health. This approach, based on the best available evidence in the appropriate population, would lead to statins being used by a much smaller proportion of the overall population than recommended by any of the guidelines.”
The authors, Abramson and Wright, are from Harvard Medical School faculty and the Department of Anesthesiology, Pharmacology & Therapeutics and Medicine at the University of British Columbia.
I believe that this lack of benefit coupled with a high rate of side effects including musculoskeletal complaints, cognitive decline, heart failure, and others, should make us strongly question statin use. While these drugs may have a use in some patients with documented occlusive vascular disease (people who have blockages in important vessels of the heart), lifestyle changes, dietary modification, and supplements such as fish oil, policosanol, and Chinese red yeast rice can confer much greater health benefits and are not frought with side effects. For more information on treating elevated cholesterol naturally, read my Cholesterol Article.