Since the article in the NYT in November 2008, about the Jupiter study in the New England Journal of Medicine which suggested that millions of healthy people could benefit from taking statins, even if they don’t have high cholesterol, I have been asked countless of times what my thoughts are about the subject.
Well, here they are….
I think this rush to put everyone on statins is CRAZY!
While statins (like Cresor and Lipitor) may save lives in patients with serious heart problems or who have had a heart attack, the benefits for anyone else are minimal at best. Although the investigators reported a 50 percent decrease in heart problems from the statin users, in reality the number went from 1.8% in the placebo group to 0.9% for statin users. So the risk was very low to start with and if read correctly, the risk was reduced by less than 1%. Even the New England Journal editorial concluded that treating 120 people with statins for about two years would only prevent one heart attack or stroke. The last three sentences could be could clearer. I don’t quite get the jump from 50 percent to less than 1 percent.
In addition, the five-year Jupiter study was stopped after two years, because of the “overwhelming success” (normally studies are stopped because of adverse effects). But the adverse effects of statins are cumulative over time, so there was not enough time to see what the long term effects of these drugs are. Even in this short two-year period there was a 20% increased risk for diabetes from taking Crestor, the statin used in this study.
The good news from the study is that doctors will now measure the CRP, C Reactive Protein, which is a measure of inflammation in the body. The acknowledgement that there are other factors in heart disease apart from cholesterol, in particular inflammation, which need to be addressed is a big step forward factor.
Using statins to decrease inflammation is missing the point. Changing your diet, exercising and taking certain supplements like Vitamin D and Fish oils much more effective in decreasing inflammation.
Interestingly, the lead investigator of this Jupiter study, Dr. Paul M. Ridker, by some strange coincidence is the co-inventor of the CRP test……hmmmmmm