Monday, March 5, 2012

Think Twice Before Taking Statins

The trouble with statins is the side effects, which can be considerable and dangerous. I have tried Zocor, Lipitor and Vytorin for moderately elevated cholesterol values (around 240 total), but all gave me numbness in my feet, muscle and joint pain. My doctor switched me from one medication to another, but they all had side effects, why I decided to stop, watch my diet and excersice more. The last time I checked, my total cholesterol was under 220, which is nothing to worry about (even though the drug companies say that you should.)

Safety Alerts Cite Cholesterol Drugs’ Side Effects (New York Times, February 28, 2012)

Federal health officials on Tuesday added new safety alerts to the prescribing information for statins, the cholesterol-reducing medications that are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the world, citing rare risks of memory loss, diabetes and muscle pain.
It is the first time that the Food and Drug Administration has officially linked statin use with cognitive problems like forgetfulness and confusion, although some patients have reported such problems for years. Among the drugs affected are huge sellers like Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor and Vytorin.
But federal officials and some medical experts said the new alerts should not scare people away from statins. “The value of statins in preventing heart disease has been clearly established,” said Dr. Amy G. Egan, deputy director for safety in the F.D.A.’s division of metabolism and endocrinology products. “Their benefit is indisputable, but they need to be taken with care and knowledge of their side effects.”
The new reports warn that statins can give you Type 2 diabetes, and memory loss.
"We’re overdosing on cholesterol-lowering statins," Eric J. Topol writes in The Diabetes Dilemma for Statin Users (New York Times, March 4, 2012). He is a cardiologist at the Scripps Clinic, professor of genomics at the Scripps Research Institute, and author of “The Creative Destruction of Medicine.” He warns that the overuse of statins could lead to "a sharp increase in the incidence of Type 2 diabetes." And he continues:
"More than 20 million Americans take statins. That would equate to 100,000 new statin-induced diabetics. Not a good thing for the public health and certainly not good for the individual affected with a new serious chronic illness.  
If there were a major suppression of heart attacks or strokes or deaths, that might be justified. But in patients who have never had heart disease and are taking statins to lower their risk (so-called primary prevention), the reduction of heart attacks and other major events is only 2 per 100. And we don’t know who the 2 per 100 patients are who benefit or the one per 200 who will get diabetes! Moreover, the margin of benefit to risk is quite narrow."
People with high cholesterol and where diet and excercise doesn't work, may have no other choice but to take their pills, but if you can avoid it, you should consider it. Topol writes:
"What should people who are taking statins do? If they are prescribed for someone who has already had heart disease or a stroke, the benefit is overriding — no changes are suggested. But in the vast majority of people who take statins — those who have never had any heart disease — there should be a careful review of whether the statin is necessary, in light of the risk of diabetes and the relatively small benefit that can be derived. Beyond that, a dose reduction or use of a less potent statin should be considered on an individual basis." 

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