Millions face serious side affects as statin use increases

StatinDrugUseStatins can lead to a 20 percent chance of patients developing heart disease,  Dr. Kailish Chand, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association told the UK Express.

Statin drugs such as Lipitor are currently offered to patients with a 20 percent risk of developing heart disease to help keep their cholesterol levels in check, but under the guidance of the government drug watchdog, the National Institute for Care and Health Excellence (NICE), the threshold will be cut to a 10 percent risk.

Dr. Chand warned that giving the drugs to low-risk patients was a commercialization device and not in their interests. Seven million adults already take the drugs and the new threshold will bring in millions more. He said many experts agree that it is unneccessary to medicalize problems which could be easily controlled with simple diet changes, and pointed to  studies showing that eating an apple a day cuts cholesterol levels as effectively as taking statins.

Aseem Malhotra, a cardiology specialist registrar, and Dr. Malcolm Kendrick, a GP and cholesterol expert, have asked NICE not to rely on evidence from drug company sponsored trials, which have been shown to play down the risk of side effects including diabetes, impotence, cataracts, muscle pains, mental impairment, fatigue and liver dysfunction. Company-funded studies show side effects in less than one percent of patients. Independent studies show them in more than 20 percent.

Dr. Malhotra said while patients with established heart disease may benefit from statins, the “mass medicalization” of a healthier group is likely to do more harm than good. He added that, “It is time to practice medicine according to what is best for patients, not to feed drug company profits.”

Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the British Medical Journal, said: “The decision to increase use of statins is based on trial data only a few chosen people have seen. We need to demand greater transparency about the research on these drugs. Why aren’t we looking at changes in lifestyle that reduce heart disease instead of medicalizing vast numbers of people?”

Good question….but the British Pharmaceutical Industry said it could not comment.


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