Every time I read something about cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, I feel like I’m trapped in a nightmare that never ends. It’s probably the same for millions of statin users who are living with the side effects of these drugs that include muscle pain, memory loss, fatigue, migraines, depression, liver dysfunction and kidney damage… and the list goes on.
I know how they feel, because I used to take these drugs… I suffered with those side effects and trust me when I tell you it was a living hell.
Caught in the middle
Just when I think there’s nothing new about these drugs that I can warn our readers about, something crops up. So, today I want to first share with you the results of two separate studies, published in the past 9 months.
- Public Library of Science, November 2016: Records of nearly 800,000 people aged 60 and over showed that statin drugs had no effect on life expectancy.The only exception was for patients aged over 65 who were already at high risk of cardiovascular problems.
- JAMA Internal Medicine, May 2017: Statins provide no benefit for pensioners who are at low risk of heart disease and had no impact on reducing deaths of any kind.The researchers also noted that the participants who were 65 and older, and who were taking statin drugs, were more likely to die than those who were helped into changing their diet.
These two prestigious medical records and the number of medical records scrutinised in both studies are significant.
Their findings are also very clear: Statin drugs don’t benefit anyone aged 60 or over, unless they already are at high risk of a cardiovascular incident AND a change of diet had a greater impact on the life expectancy of patients over the age of 65 compared to those who were taking statin drugs.
Then, this news headline recently popped up in my inbox: Give statins to almost all men over 60, GPs are told
What?! Where does this “logic” come from?
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) updated its guidelines in 2014 to state that the drugs should be offered to anyone with a 10 per cent likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease within a decade.
Now new research from a team at Harvard University intends to “help” doctors interpret the NICE guidelines. Using information from the Health Survey for England, they calculated that all men over 60 and all women over 75 with a 10 per cent risk of heart disease should therefore be eligible.
So the “logic” is not based on solid evidence, but on “risk scoring” as the researchers call it. And if doctors follow this new advice, an estimated 11.8 million people will be put on statin drugs, 6.3 million of whom are at present untreated. The findings of the Harvard team were published in the British Journal of General Practice.
According to NHS Digital, there were nearly 67 million prescriptions for statins, at a cost of about £152 million to the NHS… But I’m not concerned about the additional cost the increased number of prescriptions will have to the NHS.
I’m concerned about how these drugs will affect your health… and trust me, you’ll feel their effects.
Fortunately, some doctors are too. The Royal College of General Practitioners warned that the findings should ring alarm bells, saying it was not clear that everyone in the older age groups would really benefit from the drugs.
Nope. Check again. Actually it is very clear. It’s all there. In black and white. So, if you are over the age of 60 and your doctor suddenly tells you that you are “eligible” for statin drugs, tell him about the results of the previous two studies I mentioned.
And remember, much as you want to trust your doctor and follow their advice, it is still your choice to take a drug or not.
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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.
JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(7):955-965. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.1442
JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(7):966. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.1457
Survival Benefits of Statins for Primary Prevention: A Cohort Study, Published, 18.11.16 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0166847
Br J Gen Pract 31 July 2017; bjgp17X692141. DOI: doi.org/10.3399/bjgp17X692141