I’ll turn 59 in November. That means in just 15 months, I should start taking a statin. That’s the conclusion of a new study reported in the U.K. Independent online:

Almost every older person should be taking statins, a new study has found. Almost all men over 60 and women over 75 should be taking the drugs, the research found. And more than a third of people between 30 and 84 should be allowed to do so.

Sure, let’s put all older people on statins. Society would really benefit by having more older folks with memory problems and damaged muscles.

The sweeping findings could suggest that GPs will be asked to prescribe the drugs to the majority of their patients, leading to huge strain on doctors.

That was, of course, my first concern as well. Oh my goodness! If we start giving statins to all older people, won’t that be a strain on doctors?!

The research looked to investigate the effects of guidance that was set by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice) in 2014. That controversial ruling allowed many more people to receive statin therapy on the NHS, since it suggested that anyone with cardiovascular disease should be given the drug, and anyone with a more than 10 per cent chance of developing it in the next 10 years should take it too.

The latest study, published in the British Journal of General Practice, examined the algorithm endorsed by Nice for the assessment of CVD risk and compared it to data from the 2011 Health Survey for England to estimate the number of people who are eligible for statin therapy under the guidance.

Let me explain how that algorithm works: if you’re a male older than 60 or a woman older than 75 and still have a pulse, statistics say there’s a decent chance you may have a heart attack at some point in the future, so the algorithm says you should be on statins. The actual health of your heart doesn’t figure into it much.

Last month, I admitted that I’m a member of the anti-statin cult that Dr. Steve Nissen (America’s Statinator-In-Chief) blames for scaring people away from these wunnerful, wunnerful, life-saving drugs. So you won’t be surprised that I’m under orders from the cult leaders to explain why guidelines that would put nearly all older people on statins are complete nonsense. (I’m also under orders to smack myself in the head with my t-post hammer if the post doesn’t draw at least a thousand views, but I’m negotiating on that one.)

Advertisements for statins throw out impressive-sounding claims, such as reduces the risk of heart attack by 33 percent! If you didn’t know any better, you’d think a third of the people taking statins are saving themselves from a heart attack.

But of course, that’s not the case. That figure is derived from results like this: in a statin trial lasting some number of years, two of every 100 patients with known heart disease who took the statins had a heart attack, while three of every 100 patients with known heart disease who took a placebo had a heart attack. Two is one-third less than three, so the relative reduction is 33 percent.

But in absolute terms, it means for every 100 patients who took the drug, one was saved from a heart attack. So the number needed to treat (NNT) is 100. That’s the figure that matters.

There’s a site called The NNT that provides exactly those kinds of figures. Here’s what it says on the home page:

We are a group of physicians that have developed a framework and rating system to evaluate therapies based on their patient-important benefits and harms as well as a system to evaluate diagnostics by patient sign, symptom, lab test or study.

We only use the highest quality, evidence-based studies (frequently, but not always Cochrane Reviews), and we accept no outside funding or advertisements.

The b.s. guidelines suggested by the new study say almost everyone over a certain age should be on statins, whether they actually have heart disease or not. Here’s what The NNT tells us about statin trials conducted on people who don’t already have heart disease:

Benefits:
None were helped (life saved)
1 in 104 were helped (preventing heart attack)

Compare the statin groups to the placebo groups, and the combined results say not a single death was prevented by the statins. The statins prevented an average of one non-fatal heart attack for every 104 people who took them for five years.

Wowzers. Doesn’t that make you want to run out and fill that statin prescription as soon as you turn 60?

But wait, let’s not forget to look at the other side of the equation:

Harms:
1 in 50 were harmed (develop diabetes)
1 in 10 were harmed (muscle damage)

And keep in mind, these figures are mostly from studies published by the makers of statin drugs. In other words, they’re the most positive studies. We don’t know how many studies conducted by Big Pharma were simply dumped because the results were less-than-positive. Here’s what the gang at The NNT says on the subject:

Virtually all of the major statin studies were paid for and conducted by their respective pharmaceutical company. A long history of misrepresentation of data and occasionally fraudulent reporting of data suggests that these results are often much more optimistic than subsequent data produced by researchers and parties that do not have a financial stake in the results.

The combined results of these mostly-positive studies say 10% of the people on statins suffered muscle damage. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts (and you can keep the donuts) the figure in the real world is much higher. When Big Pharma conducts these studies, they screen out patients who report side effects from other drugs. So the population that goes into the study is less likely to experience side effects than the population at large.

But what the heck, let’s suppose the figure is actually the 10% reported in the studies instead of the 25% or greater I suspect we’d find in the real world. And let’s suppose you’re a man 60 or older, or a woman 75 or older, with no previous heart attacks or known heart disease. Let’s put you in a group of 100 of your peers and give you all statins. Here’s what would happen, according to the most positive data Big Pharma can produce:

  • One of you will be prevented from having a non-fatal heart attack, but none of you will be prevented from actually dying. (And preventing the one non-fatal heart attack will likely only apply to the men.)
  • Two or more of you will develop diabetes you wouldn’t otherwise have had (which increases the odds of heart disease or stroke down the line).
  • Ten or more of you will end up with damaged muscles, thus seriously reducing your quality of life.

I think we should ignore this latest edition of the Statins For Everyone! guidelines.

At least that’s what the cult leaders told me to say.

 

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45 Responses to “Statins For Everyone! (again)”
  1. Jean Irvin says:

    I already have a note on my doctor’s records that says ‘Statin declined’. As a 69 year old female with slightly raised cholesterol I hope I am as healthy as I can be!

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I assume that note also puts you in the “bad patient” category.

      • Firebird7478 says:

        I’ve been called “hostile” by doctors in the past.

        I’m proud of myself.

      • Jean Irvin says:

        Well, I get on very well with my doctor so I think he has just accepted it. I have had other problems since then – colon cancer and now chemo – so I think the statin bit has become fairly irrelevant.
        Luckily he took me seriously with the other symptoms, the NHS (UK) stepped up a gear and the chemo is only belt and braces and my outlook is very good.

  2. Linda says:

    Thanks so much for this post! The statin issue is certainly not dead!! It needs to be out there until those drugs are taken off the market. As one person who not only got muscle pain, but was totally crippled by a mere two month stint of a statin drug, I have been on a campaign ever since to spread the word about them. I should have researched them before taking statins, but didn’t, and now I have to walk with a walker. Also, two months after taking them, my A1c was 8 and I was declared type II diabetic. I refused medication for it and went on a very low carb, high fat diet, lost weight and the next time my A1c was tested it was a beautiful 5 (minus statin drugs!!!)

    As far as I’m concerned, the medical community has much to answer for. Tens of thousands of people have been and are being harmed by these drugs which are pure poison! Being a retired medical person, it is beyond my belief that doctors keep prescribing these drugs without ever spending ten minutes reading about the effects of them! But then, if they quit prescribing them, those nice bonuses the pharmaceutical industry provides for prescribing them would go out the window. Can’t have that, can we??

    • Tom Naughton says:

      The good news is that more people have gotten the word and are refusing statins. That’s why we’re seeing these “statin denier cult!” warnings and changes in guidelines to turn more people into patients.

  3. Tom Welsh says:

    Let’s assume – because I couldn’t be bothered to look up the real numbers – that there are 80 million Americans over 60.

    That would mean 8 million with muscle damage and 1.6 million with diabetes. (Although given that about a third of Americans seem to be diabetic or pre-diabetic already, that would make very little difference).

    Still: 8 million with muscle damage. Wow. The Pentagon would be proud of causing that much harm – and it would cost them far, far more to do it.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Those are the figures the statinators don’t want you to consider. They’ll go on and on about the thousands of lives that aren’t being saved because people refuse to take their statins. How about the millions of people who aren’t damaging their muscles and ruining their quality of life?

      • chris c says:

        There’s no such thing as a “life saved”, only a life extended, it appears for days at the most. They tend not to mention that either.

        Then you go look at some of the things other than “cholesterol” and things other than statins which have much more effect in the Real World. Then you look at Dave Feldman’s ongoing research into how rapidly LDL can change, and what it actually seems to be used for, namely ferrying fat about to be metabolised. Finally you ask yourself why we would produce “cholesterol” just to kill ourselves, and why we would have evolved the entire mevalonate pathway just so we could invent drugs to shut it down, and you start to see who actually is the Cult.

    • Bill says:

      You maybe onto something. I’m thinking drones loaded with Statins targeting IS, The Taliban and Al Kieda. This would really work for the Pharma companies since government work is far more lucrative than selling to Joe Public.. It has merit, well done sir!

  4. egocyte says:

    I learned just a few days ago the existense of the “file drawer effect”, when you keep the studies in the drawer when you don’t like the result, and only publish the positive ones. It seems to be a big problem in science, even when there is no pharmaceutical company paying for the study. I guess the effect must be huge in this case…

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I have a friend whose brother works in pharma. He admitted to my friend, “We keep running trials until we get the result we want. That’s how it works in this business.”

  5. Dianne says:

    Are there any reasonably reliable stats on how many would end up with memory problems if these guidelines were followed? As I mentioned some time ago, even my own doctor, who keeps pushing statins at me (and getting them pushed right back), said she wouldn’t recommend them for my husband because he “already had memory problems.”

    So doctors do know there’s a link. But I wonder if statins cause memory problems directly, or through promoting diabetes, or both. My husband was diagnosed with T2D and Alzheimer’s within a few years of each other. The T2D wasn’t surprising — for years his workday lunches consisted of one and a half peanut butter and honey sandwiches washed down with a shaker of Metrecal (remember that one?), he could never get enough ice cream, breakfasts were nearly always cereal, and he used to fill his big beer stein with M&Ms peanut candies and “drink” those every night. Of course, I can’t prove that he wouldn’t have gotten Alzheimer’s if he hadn’t consumed those tons of sugar and gotten diabetes, but I can’t help wondering if a different diet might have prevented or delayed the dementia.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I don’t know if there are reliable statistics. A big part of the problem is that when older people are given statins and then have memory problems, doctors assume it’s a sign of age and don’t attribute it to the statin.

      • Walter says:

        This (symptoms of aging) from statins are attributed to aging, because doctors don’t see very many people not on statins or other aging drugs, so they don’t see normal aging.

        Anything that damages the mitochondria is going to cause aging. Last week I was eating lunch with friends of my age and younger who said that when they went home (to the American heartland) all they contemporaries were _old_. This at a table of late 60s to early 70s. Nobody was on pharmaceuticals. It may have been selected because we were at an art museum, so probably more active and intellectually engaged than the average American, but seriously.

      • Dianne says:

        Yeah — being old is kinda like being overweight. It automatically becomes the “reason” for whatever is wrong with you. No matter what happens, the doc tells you that you “just need to lose the extra weight” or that you “just have to expect this at your age.” I swear, if I went to the ER seeking treatment for a burst appendix or even a snakebite, some doc would tell me I would be fine if I just lost 50 lbs. It’s been that way for years, and now I’m both fat AND old so I’m very easy to diagnose.

        Be ready, Tom. They’ll never accuse you of being overweight, but pretty soon they’ll start telling you that a man your age has to expect whatever you may happen to come down with.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          If a doc ever tells I should expect to have memory problems because I’m 70, I’ll promptly forget to ever make another appointment with that doc.

  6. Jeff says:

    Oh no, I just turned sixty one. I’m going to have to play catch up and start taking mega doses of statins. I would never want to hurt Pharma and see their revenue decline because of my selfish interest in health.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Take a double dose and get twice the muscle pain.

      • Walter says:

        Or triple and see if you can qualify for early dementia.

        Doubtless some doctors are prescribing statins because they have early onset dementia and can’t recognize what’s happening. It is hard to overcome “brainwashing”*.

        *brainwashing should mean getting rid of wrong ideas rather than input of false ideas.

  7. Peter says:

    Let’s also not forget that trials run AFTER the 2004 transparency regulations FAIL to repeat the miraculous results achieved prior to 2004.

  8. pierre says:

    This drug is a scam, I can’t understand it is still on the market?
    Just ask Duane Graveline who wrote : Lipitor Thief of Memory

    • Tom Naughton says:

      36 billion dollars per year is why it’s still on the market.

      • Walter says:

        I think not so much these days with generics, which is why the drug companies are pushing PCSK9 Inhibitors which could bankrupt the sickness care industry or the country decades earlier.

  9. Stealth says:

    Not to mention that people who take statin drugs for 5 years or more extend their life by something like three DAYS. Diabetic and crippled by muscle pain days. No thanks!

  10. Stephen T says:

    As you say, the NNT of 100 is a pharma figure. The figure quoted by The Times medical correspondent, Dr Mark Porter, is an NNT of 400, based on NICE statistics, yet somehow NICE still recommend them.

    I doubt that any of the people taking statins have had these figures explained to them. According to a decision of by the UK’s Supreme Court in 2015 (the Montgomery judgment), the benefits and alternatives of a treatment must be explained to obtain true patient consent. That’s not been done.

    http://www.medicalprotection.org/uk/for-members/news/news/2015/03/20/new-judgment-on-patient-consent

    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/dr-mark-porter-most-doctors-think-1-in-74-is-a-pretty-good-success-rate-for-a-drug-l5jnzg6nx

  11. Bonnie says:

    My husband took statins for years until we read Grain Brain & Wheat Belly. His present doctor is not the one who first prescribed them (who may well be dead by now as it’s been 22 years), and was very happy when husband declined the prescription several years ago. He (the doctor) thinks it’s crazy to have the elderly take statins “just because.”

    My husband is very lucky to have had none of the side effects – at least none that were obvious. My doctor would like me to take one, but she understands that no means no & doesn’t push.

  12. J.E. says:

    Internist put me on statins; I lasted 10 days. When I saw her again, I said if this was the best I was going to feel for the rest of my life, then I will just shoot myself now. She apologized and said she never had anyone who reacted that way while taking them. I was depressed, achy and even my coworkers said I looked like death warmed over. She was a ‘by the book’ doc – you need this test, and that test, and this drug and that drug. I found a new health care provider shortly after, who is wonderful and takes into consideration what I am comfortable with and understands not everyone is the same.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Here’s what worries me: you had obvious symptoms quickly, so the doc believed it was the statin. I wonder how many people are being damaged, but the symptoms aren’t so obvious or quick to appear, so the docs never attribute the damage to the statins.

      • Walter says:

        And the fact that mitochondrial damage syndromes can strike *anywhere* means their is not a consistent damage so the damage can be swept under the rug as it were.

        Mitochondrial damage will strike first at the weakest systems, because they will be the ones that lack of energy shows up first.

        See:Nick Lane:_The Vital Question_ or apparently an earlier version
        _Power, Sex, Suicide_. (Second one is may be cheaper second hand.)

      • Kay says:

        Other symptoms they are misdiagnosing, such as irritability and aggression have been popping up as statin side effects: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/minding-the-body/201611/do-statin-medications-affect-irritability-and-aggression

        • Tom Naughton says:

          No surprise there. People with low cholesterol are more likely to be depressed and more likely to commit violence. Great drugs, eh?

          • Walter Bushell says:

            Also people with low cholesterol are more prone to infectious diseases. A potential problem particularly in natural disasters like costal Texas, what with the flooding causing people to walk through polluted water and crash in shelters.

            Wonderful place for a epidemic.

            I remember a chart showing minimal death rate at cholesterol at 240. Besides high cholesterol is probably just a symptom of cardiovascular disease.

  13. Bill says:

    It has occurred to me that the very term ‘peer reviewed paper’ may be a problem. A peer is someone at your level ( I think, its hard to find a decent definition) and most likely interested in the same area of study as you. At best, when it comes to Statins lets say he or she may be as deluded as you are about the efficacy of the product at worst it could be someone from the company who sponsored the study- not a good range of peers now I come to think of it. Should there be rules or are their rules about the peer review process i.e. people who aren’t your peers and have no interest in your work who look into the integrity of your work? But wait, that probably means that none of this c**p would ever find its way into our lives.

  14. Wayne Gage says:

    I didn’t research statins, I researched cholesterol and decided it should not be lowere.

  15. darMa says:

    My former doctor was slow to get on the statin bandwagon, wanting to do his own research first. But in the early 90’s he started prescribing them. After 4 tries with differing side effects (including one call from the office saying stop immediately), he was about to prescribe yet another one. I said no, thank you. He began the “experts say…” speech and I held up my hand and told him, you can quote all the experts you want but in this case my body is the expert and it’s clearly saying “why in hell are you giving me this crap?” He literally looked like a deer caught in headlights (I almost laughed out loud) but thought a minute and said, okay, and never brought them up again. Funny thing, after a while off them, I no longer had fibromyalgia anymore…

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