Statins are a type of drug doctors love to prescribe to lower cholesterol levels. Never mind that many of these physicians do not know how to interpret cholesterol tests, breaking the total cholesterol number down into good and bad cholesterol plus non-HDL and triglycerides. There are Big Pharma perks for physicians who push high-profit statins onto their customers – patients, that is.
Visiongain, based in London, England, reported that the 2017 global cholesterol-lowering drug market was estimated at $19.2 billion. That ain’t chump change.
Statins work by reducing lipids (fats) in the blood which is thought, in turn, to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. But how safe are these drugs and why are they a darling of the medical profession?
It turns out that statin use has led to severe muscle disease, weakness, fatigue, memory problems, and even death. Polyneuropathy, or peripheral neuropathy, features weakness, tingling and pain in the hands and feet, and difficulty walking. A study of 500,000 Danish residents found that “people who took statins were more likely to develop polyneuropathy.”
The negative side effects of statins also include:
- Weakened immune system
- Central nervous system dysfunction
Joseph Pizzorno, ND, is the Editor in Chief of IMCJ (Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal) and minces no words about the “Vilification of Cholesterol (for Profit?)” that he perceives in the healthcare industry. Denying that he is “a wild-eyed, far-left anticapitalist,” Pizzorno said that the new cholesterol practice management guidelines were designed to “print money for drug companies.”
The impassioned Pizzorno asked, “Truly, how can anyone think we need to prescribe statins to 50% of the population older than 40?! In order to justify this extreme position, data had to be distorted and cholesterol vilified.”
The medical community demonized cholesterol, claiming it caused heart disease. While raised cholesterol levels do occur with cardiovascular disease, “the real problem is not cholesterol but rather oxidized low-density lipoprotein (oxLDL) cholesterol,” according to Pizzorno.
They say a rising tide lifts all boats and this is also true for oxidized cholesterol: its levels go up in patients whose total cholesterol count is elevated – “so it is, in reality, an indirect measure of the true problem (cooking cholesterol-rich foods in the presence of oxygen, excessive oxidative stress in the body, inadequate consumption of antioxidants, etc),” explained Pizzorno.
You may recall that when my thyroid doctor (an endocrinologist) wanted to put me on statins that I asked if cholesterol couldn’t be lowered through changes in diet and increasing exercise. After he recovered from the shock of my question – evidently, his other patients were ready to take a magic pill to solve their health condition – he told me which foods to avoid and approved my becoming more active.
Pizzorno blamed doctors who recommended statins to their patients after limited discussion about improving diet and lifestyle for overprescribing these medications.
Acknowledging that statins are indeed appropriate and helpful for some patients, Pizzorno said many others reported they went off their meds due to a decreased quality of life. 5% to 10% of patients will experience statin-related myopathy, according to researchers Loukianos Rallidis, MD, FESC, and Maria Anastasiou-Nana, MD. The duo asserted that “statin-related myopathy (SRM) has been greatly underestimated and this contrasts findings of observational studies which suggest that SRM is relatively common.”
Myopathy is a muscle-weakening disease in which the muscle fibers do not function properly. It is one of several SAMS (Statin-Associated Muscle Symptoms), which also include myalgia (aching, stiffness, and cramps) and inflammation (myositis).
A 2014 study found that taking statins can have serious negative side effects on some consumers:
“Statins are safe and effective in the majority of patients, but they are associated with muscle toxicity, which, although rare, can be serious and potentially life threatening.”
A second study reported in 2014 also found that “the issue of statin-related myopathy (SRM) has been greatly underestimated, and this contrasts with findings of observational studies that suggest that SRM is relatively common.”
A study published by the British Medical Journal found that statins did not reduce cardiovascular disease, conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels or death in healthy people aged over 75. Statins did lower cardiovascular disease and death from any cause up to the age of 85 years in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Just say no to statins as a line of first resort to improving your health. First, try cleaning up your diet (goodbye, junk food) and getting more fresh air and exercise. Eat more fiber and quit polluting your body with tobacco products while you’re at it.
Weigh the benefits and downsides of statins before you line the pockets of Big Pharma drug makers and their physician pushers. Your health and well-being depend on it.