Gender Bias Is Preventing Women From Getting ‘Life-Saving’ (And Damaging) Statins

Goodness, this whole gender-bias problem is getting serious. In the Fat Head Report video I posted earlier this week, vegan doctor John McDougall explained that humans developed a reputation for being proficient hunters because of gender bias – the men were the hunters, you see, and were actually lousy at it.  But they bragged and lied and bragged and lied about their hunting abilities, over and over, so anthropologists were fooled into thinking humans were great hunters.  Apparently this was part of a plan to repress future generations of women living in civilized countries.

Well, okay, perhaps gender bias among hunter-gatherer tribes doesn’t bother you. But what about gender bias in being prescribed life-saving statins? It’s a serious issue, according to a recent article in the U.K. Telegraph:

A worrying gender divide in the prescribing of life-saving statins to women with Type 2 diabetes has been uncovered by researchers.

An analysis of prescriptions shows that although women are more likely to have high blood pressure and cholesterol than men – putting them at greater risk of heart problems – they were less likely to receive protective medication.

I see. Women are more likely to have high blood pressure and cholesterol than men – putting them at greater risk of heart problems. So obviously women have more heart attacks than men.

A study of 80,000 people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in England between 2006 and 2013 found that 11.6 per cent of women and 12.8 per cent of men went on to develop cardiovascular disease.

Uh … wait a minute. Something doesn’t make sense here. Let’s look at those two quotes again …

Women are more likely to have high blood pressure and cholesterol than men – putting them at greater risk of heart problems.

11.6 per cent of women and 12.8 per cent of men went on to develop cardiovascular disease.

So the women are at greater risk despite a lower actual rate of cardiovascular disease. Got it. The average age for having a first heart attack among men is 65, by the way. For women, it’s 72. The higher blood pressure and cholesterol is clearly doing a number on women. But back to the gender-bias problem:

Yet women were 16 per cent less likely to receive cholesterol-lowering statins than men, and 26 per cent less likely to be prescribed ACE inhibitors, which helps relax blood vessels and lowers blood pressure.

Tsk-tsk! What the heck is wrong with those doctors, prescribing life-saving statins to a smaller percentage of women than men? Those gender-biased MDs must not care if women die from heart disease.  Maybe they’re afraid the women will eventually reveal that whole men are actually lousy hunters story.  That has to be it. What other reason could there be for not prescribing life-saving statins?

I can think of one. Howzabout we take a peek at data from The NNT, a site maintained by doctors for doctors. Here’s a description of what they do from 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.

And using the highest-quality, evidence-based studies, here’s what they concluded about giving statins to people who don’t already have heart disease:

Benefits in NNT
None were helped (life saved)
1 in 104 were helped (preventing heart attack)
1 in 154 were helped (preventing stroke)

No lives saved. Just one non-fatal heart attack prevented for every 104 people treated with statins. So much for those life-saving statins.

Here’s what the NNT doctors found for harms from statins:

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

If gender bias prevents doctors from doling out as many statins to women, perhaps more men should identify as women, never mind the expanded restroom privileges.

Call it lucky timing or whatever, but just a week before the Telegraph article appeared, a new study on statin side effects was released. Keep in mind, according to the studies conducted by statin-makers, the incidence of adverse drug reactions is very low. Really, really low. Heck-nothing-to-worry-about low. Now check out these figures:

Among 556 patients (418 men; 138 women) taking statins, 237 ADRs were reported (186 men; 51 women). The incidence of ADRs was 40.7%, and more frequent among patients at “high CV disease (CVD) risk” and “moderate CVD risk” than other risk categories.

The incidence of ADRs among statin users was 42.6%, and frequent ADRs (49%) were noted in patients with high CVD risk.

Adverse drug reactions in more than 40% of the population studied, climbing to nearly 50% in patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

So of course, the authors wrote this as the final sentence in the abstract:

Early identification of these ADRs should improve patient adherence to life-saving statin treatment.

Head. Bang. On. Desk.

How exactly does early identification of side effects improve patient adherence?

Well, Mr. Patient, we’ve detected that the statin you’re taking is inducing diabetes, damaging your liver, screwing up your muscles and causing your cognitive abilities to decline. Good thing we caught it early. Now keep taking your statin.

I have my own bias.  I’m biased against stupidity and bad logic.  It takes a fair bit of both to think not enough women are taking statins.

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31 thoughts on “Gender Bias Is Preventing Women From Getting ‘Life-Saving’ (And Damaging) Statins

  1. Lori Miller

    Well, maybe the researchers could just ask doctors why they don’t prescribe these drugs to women–maybe the answer is that women under a certain age are really unlikely to have a heart attack.

    I realize there are parts of the world where women are treated like crap, but in the US or UK? As I sit here in a comfortable house I legally own myself, with a car in the garage I can drive wherever I want to without a keeper, a computer I can use to criticize the USDA, and the memory of walking down the street in 2012, black and blue and wearing a sling from an accident, and seeing sympathy in the faces of a third of the men I passed (none among the women), I find it hard to square that reality with patriarchal oppression.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Some people are only happy when they’re outraged. Calling the slightly lower rate of prescriptions for women a form of gender bias is a stretch.

  2. Tanny O'Haley

    I seem to remember that when they did the Statin clinical trial for women that the difference between the base group and the Statin group for CVD was zero. Wouldn’t that make it medical malpractice to pescribe statins to women?

      1. chris c

        NO NO NO!

        The fact that statins show no effect in women merely means they need a higher dose. (Coming to a study near you real soon)

        On the subject of gender bias, isn’t it appalling that women have higher levels of breast cancer, endometriosis and gestational diabetes than men? At least they don’t get prostate cancer . . .

  3. Firebird7478

    “Vegan doctor John McDougall explained that humans developed a reputation for being proficient hunters because of gender bias – the men were the hunters, you see, and were actually lousy at it. But they bragged and lied and bragged and lied about their hunting abilities, over and over, so anthropologists were fooled into thinking humans were great hunters.”

    This reminds me of the story of the one-armed fisherman. He caught a fish this big: ✋______

  4. Dianne

    Reading something like this makes me feel as if I’d fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole, into a land where things that make no sense at all are treated as if they make perfect sense.

  5. Irma

    It is so scary that these drugs are promoted so heavily. If you have no one looking out for you, you may never know that your other symptoms are coming from a basically useless drug that is over prescribed.

    I was given a prescription for a statin a few years ago. It was a blessing that I had already watched Fat Head several times and knew that they were useless for me. I also did not want to end up depressed from a drug that I do not need.

    Thank you for your good works Tom!!

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yup, lots of people on statins are being given still more drugs for muscle and joint aches, with no idea the statin is the cause. That’s what happened to my mom.

  6. Don

    Maybe gender bias is at work here, just not in the way they imply. I would take a bullet for my wife but never in a million years would I even consider letting her do that for me. Maybe subconsciously the doctors feel the same way, and are less apt to experiment on women with harmful drugs.

      1. Tom Naughton Post author

        I feel the same way about posting on Twitter. Drives me nuts when I hit the Tweet button, then notice a typo or missing word.

        1. Don

          Lol, yes, and the idiots will immediately jump on any grammatical mistake as a means of invalidating your argument.

        2. JillOz

          Just highlight and copy the text, delete the tweet, paste into a new tweet, correct and post.

          1. Tom Naughton Post author

            Yeah, I’ve done that when I catch it right away. What sucks is when I noticed an error after other people have replied and retweeted.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Years ago when I lived in Chicago, I charged into an alley to yank a guy off a woman he was strangling. Another guy was standing a safe distance away, yelling at the strangler to stop, but not moving in. The woman ran off, shouting “Thank you!” over her shoulder. When the attacker tried to get around me to follow her, I knocked him backwards again. He glared at me, then turn and ran the other way.

      Pretty sure the woman never complained to anyone about my gender bias or toxic masculinity … although she may have doubts about my hunting abilities.

      1. Dianne

        You’re a hero, Tom, and I’m sure that lady remembers you to this day. Too often people just stand by wringing their hands, or simply look the other way, when something ugly happens. A bit over fifty years ago I was coming home one evening and there was a young woman sitting on the apartment steps crying and talking to a policeman. A man had grabbed her and tried to drag her into the narrow area between two apartment buildings, and the only person on that whole busy street who came to her aid was an elderly lady who waded in and started whacking the varmint with her umbrella. (This was Portland, OR.) But that was enough to get him to let go of the girl and take off.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          That was one spirited old lady!

          If the woman in the alley had been raped or killed and I didn’t try to stop it, I’d never be able to look myself in the mirror again. It was as simple as that.

      2. Don

        Well, I’m sure your wife appreciates your chivalry, as does mine. I married my high school sweetheart 34 years ago and we have 11 children together, 9 of them boys, so lots of toxic masculinity in these parts. I’m afraid the rabid feminists’ desire to kill chivalry will be a case of be careful what you wish for.

        P.S. We live on five acres and have free range chickens, rabbits, a huge garden, and a stocked pond; love the farm reports. Do you have enough room for a pond? I don’t know about Tennessee, but here in Ohio you don’t need any kind of permit as long as it is under 8′ deep.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I’d love to have a pond someday. There’s a creek down the middle of the property that I’d widen into a pond if we had the necessary permissions and were ready to spend the money.

          1. Don

            You’d enjoy it. We have Crappie, Bass, Bluegill, and Catfish. We’ve caught two giant Snapping Turtles, which are very tasty. We also have a Blue Heron that I thought was beautiful until I found out it was decimating our fish. Any readers have any tips to scare it away, since it is illegal to kill them?

  7. June

    Yes. I’m 64 and Type 2 diabetic, which was diagnosed after I was on statins for a year (a total coincidence, I’m sure) . I took myself off statins after developing terrible leg cramping and finding out it could be related to statins after reading a post on FatHead (thank you again, Tom). Every three months when I visit my doctor for my diabetes check, we go through the same dance.
    Your A1C is 5.6, which is essentially normal.
    But your LDH is high so you should go back on statins.
    But you have a 30% greater chance of having a heart attack or stroke if you don’t go on statins because you are diabetic.
    But you said my A1C is essentially normal, so do I really have the same risks as someone with an A1C of 10?
    Well, that’s for microvascular disease, like kidney or eye. I’m talking about macrovascular disease like heart attack and stroke.
    If you were my mother, I’d be sure you were taking statins.
    That’s nice, but no.
    But we have 30 years of studies proving that statins prevent heart attack and stroke.
    I have studies showing that higher LDH is associated with better health outcomes in older women.
    That wasn’t for women with diabetes.
    Well, send me your studies and I’ll take a look at them.

    I’m still waiting for the studies. I actually found the study of LDH in older women and only one of the studies they looked at specifically excluded patients with diabetes, so I’m going to send her a copy of the study. I’m always looking for more studies to back up my position so if anyone has any ideas, let me know.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Ugh. The “30 percent greater chance” is based on statin studies of men already known to have heart disease or be at especially high risk of heart disease. And the one extra heart attack prevented (2 events out of 100 patients in statin group, 3 events out of 100 patients in the placebo group) was a non-fatal heart attack.

      I know you know this, but I’m putting the numbers out there for people who don’t.

      1. June

        I know. My problem is I get flustered when talking to the doctor in person. Also, I know some of these studies will show fewer cardiac or stroke “events” but the mortality rates between the groups are the same and an “event” can be anything from a massive but non-lethal emergency to a not-even-noticeable blip but they are all lumped together so you can’t tell what is actually being prevented.

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