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Statin Drugs: Misleading Study Results. Don’t Be Fooled.

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Beware. Statin drugs are on the march again! Or should I say, the companies that sell these drugs are at it again. Of course I’m referring to the media buzz around the recently released results of a very large Harvard-led study claiming the benefits of Statin drugs even in people with low or normal cholesterol levels. The study, named JUPITOR, involved 17,800 participants. All had elevated C-reactive protein (C-RP) levels (which is an indicator of general inflammation) but normal cholesterol. 50% took Crestor, the most potent statin drug, and 50% received a placebo.

The study was ended early, less than 2 years into it instead of the planned 5 years, boasting profound results. They claimed the group on the statin, Crestor, had a 54% reduced incidence of heart attacks and a 48% reduced incidence of stroke.

OK, let’s talk about this study. First of all, this was a biased study. It was completely funded by Astra-Zeneca, the pharmaceutical company that produces Crestor. In addition, the JUPITOR oversight committee and almost all the trial investigators had declared financial involvements with the pharmaceutical industry, and many specifically with Astra-Zeneca. Secondly, let’s analyze the results. And “no” they are not lying about the results, but “yes” they are definitely manipulating the numbers. A 54% reduced risk sounds like Crestor saved 54 people out of 100 from a heart attack. That is not even close to the truth. Actually, only an extremely low number of all the study participants, (less than 2%) experienced a heart incident of any type during the entire 2 year study. What does that mean? Only 1.6% of those taking Crestor, compared to 2.8% taking placebo. That’s a difference of 1.2%!

And the big picture? It means that over 100 people would have to be treated with Crestor for at least a year to prevent a cardiovascular event in one person, and the numbers that need to be treated to prevent even one heart attack are even greater.

Of course, the pharmaceutical industry is using these results to recommend Statin use for elevated C-RP levels even in people with normal cholesterol levels. We must keep in mind, however, that Statin drugs, and especially Crestor, one of the most potent statins, are associated with many potential side effects. They include muscle pain, joint pain, fatigue, memory and sleep issues, depression, liver and kidney toxicity, among others. And one very sobering fact is that some of these side effects do not disappear with the discontinuation of the drugs.

Incidentally, there are currently over 12 million Americans taking Statins. Now with the JUPITOR study results, the “experts” are recommending another 20 million “should” be taking them.

OK, but what about C-RP? Isn’t this something we should be paying attention to and working with? Yes! C-RP is a general inflammatory marker in the body. We know inflammation is associated with many diseases including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and many others. However, there are many nutritional approaches for lowering C-RP levels, starting with an anti-inflammatory diet, and perhaps some nutritional supplements.

CRP monitoring is not new. For the over 16 years I have been in practice, I have recommended monitoring C-RP, homocysteine, blood sugar, fibrinogen, DHEA, in addition to cholesterol and triglycerides, to make sure we are addressing all the factors that can increase risk of a cardiac incident (and some other diseases as well). I am also now recommending Vitamin D levels. Low Vitamin D is an emerging recognized risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. For all of these indices, there are safe and effective nutritional approaches to bring them to optimal levels.

In addition, before anyone uses Statin drugs even for lowering cholesterol, I recommend a VAP test, which further breaks down the LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterols, so therapy goals can be more clear.

In my sixteen years of practice, there have been very few clients I have worked with that could not bring their cholesterol numbers into the normal range. And yes they were able to do this without statin drugs. I’m including here those that had been told their high levels were due to their genetics. This is especially true if their cholesterol was under 300. I typically recommend a 3-6 month trial with diet and lifestyle adjustments before making a decision to go on a Statin drug. Of course, these recommendations are different for people who have already had a cardiac incident.

So please, don’t be talked into using these Statin drugs prematurely. Bring in those test results and we can get started. In fact, there is nothing I enjoy more than helping people discover how they can succeed in optimizing these levels without drugs.