In the UK, advertising for prescription pharmaceutical drugs on television, in newspapers and mainstream popular magazines, is currently banned. In the US, however, it’s a completely different kettle of fish. There, your favourite primetime television drama will often be interrupted by an ad for a powerful cholesterol-lowering statin drug or some new cancer treatment. There’s no escaping these ads!
Though we’re not targeted quite in the same way (thankfully!) in the UK, drugs like statins, are rarely out of the headlines.
Here are a few headlines that made the news stands over the past 14 days:
- Statins could treat breast cancer in future
- Statins: A miracle drug that could prevent and reverse disease
- Statins linked to lower risk of prostate cancer death
- Statins may improve survival rate for aneurysm
Based on these and other similar stories, those who are less informed about the true dangers of statins, would be forgiven for saying ‘Yes please doc’, as soon as their doctor suggests taking them… Trust me, at some point, your doctor WILL make this recommendation, especially if you are 55 and older.
However, here are some of the recent statin-related stories that did not make the headlines:
- Statins linked to lung damage in smokers
- Statin use in postmenopausal women increases diabetes risk
- Statins can trigger temporary memory loss (transient global amnesia)
- Statins cause musculoskeletal pain in those without arthritis
What’s going on here?
We all know that the media loves doom and gloom. Every day we hear about the looming global recession, revolt against governments and protesters waving their banners against unfair economic policies.
So, why does the media only report on the allegedly ‘positive’ health benefits of statins? Surely, if they are dedicated to honest reporting (albeit more doom and gloom), we should be seeing the negative results of statin studies on the front pages too?
Is this a case of Big Pharma ‘paying’ for a bit of sneaky advertising? I’m guessing, this certainly is the case!
Many of our readers have written in to ask about the latest statin study, which claims that a daily dose of statins could help prevent cancer… especially breast cancer. Mention the words ‘breast cancer’ and you have the attention of every woman on the planet. Link statins as a potential cure for this disease and you’ve hooked a massive market… just waiting to be exploited by Big Pharma!
How clever is that?
However, what the media fails to highlight is the fact that this particular study was a laboratory study. Meaning, it was not even conducted on animals, let alone humans.
US researchers, led by Carol Prives of Columbia University, grew cells generated from breast cancer tumours in a laboratory and then treated the cancer cells with simvastatin, a commonly used statin drug. The results showed that the growth of cancer cells was reduced when targeted with statins… That really is the gist of it.
To say that much more research is required before even suggesting that statins can be used as a treatment against breast and other cancers, is a gross understatement.
Much as research into the fight against cancer is important, when taking into account all the terrible known side effects of statins, I sincerely hope that further studies exploring these drugs as a potential cancer treatment, don’t see the light of day. Do you really want to burden a cancer sufferer with cataracts, muscle pain, fatigue, kidney failure, depression, liver dysfunction, Alzheimer’s and mental confusion… to name but a few statin side effects?
That’s not all. On our dedicated blog, The Cholesterol Truth, Dr. John Briffa previously wrote about a clinical trial, involving almost 6,000 men and women aged 70-82. The participants were all at relatively high risk of cardiovascular events and were treated with a statin (pravastatin) or placebo for over three years.
The results showed that cancer rates were 25 per cent higher in the group taking pravastatin. That’s certainly not a risk I’d be willing to take if I was a cancer sufferer.
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Disclaimer: Bear in mind the material contained in this article is provided for information purposes only. We are not addressing anyone’s personal situation. Please consult with your own physician before acting on any recommendations contained herein.
Statins ‘may block cancer’, published online, 20.01.12, nhs.uk
Shepherd J, et al. Pravastatin in elderly individuals at risk of vascular disease (PROSPER): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2002;360(9346):1623-30