Statin Use Tied to Controversy

new-guidelines-for-statinsStatins, drugs used to lower cholesterol, may not be the best option for those hoping to prevent heart attacks. The drugs have long been prescribed to reduce cholesterol so that potentially fatal blood clots, heart attack, and stroke are prevented.

Although data reveals that while cholesterol is the main factor in determining the likelihood of one suffering a heart attack, it seems that the majority of people—about three-quarters—tested with normal cholesterol levels at the time of their first heart attack, according to The Huffington Post.

The Framingham Heart Study, which was conducted 50 years ago, suggested that cholesterol may not, in fact, have a strong effect in the treatment of cardiac disease. This finding came after other research concerning medications such as fibrates, niacin, and ezetemibe revealed that the medications lowered cholesterol, but did not help extend life or reduce the likelihood of heart attack, The Huffington Post reported. When 30-year data from the study was reviewed, researchers learned that, in most age groups, associations were not seen between increased death and high cholesterol. In other people, deaths were associated with lower cholesterol, The Huffington Post indicated.

According to the Huffington Post report, from a public health standpoint, statins are considered a “failure,” especially when considering heart disease death rates and the ties with statin use. Deaths associated with heart disease began falling 40 years ago, with a decline that has not changed with statins’ increased use. Today, medical schools across the country are also not teaching about this apparent medical treatment failure.

In heart disease patients, statin use is widely accepted; however, the numbers still do not reveal any benefit. Consider, for instance that, for every 80 people prescribed a statin, only one life will be saved and only one in 40 people will not have a heart attack, according to The Huffington Post. Meanwhile, for every 50 people taking statins, one will develop diabetes. New American Heart Association guidelines also change the issue for patients receiving even less benefits, expanding statin recommendations for people without known heart disease, according to The Huffington Post. For these individuals, the likelihood of developing diabetes tied to statin use is about the same as the likelihood of avoiding a non-fatal heart attack.

Studies on the drugs were conducted by industry; according to The Huffington Post: “Drug companies with a history of gamesmanship and fraud in the reporting of results” were conducting the research. In fact, cardiologists on the committee that documented the guidelines were—in seven of 15 cases—financially tied to the drug makers.

Statins are the best selling drugs worldwide, prescribed to people diagnosed with obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome—a dangerous health combination involving excess body fat and/or high blood pressure—, blood sugar, and/or high cholesterol, according to Medical News Today previously. Drugs in the statin class have long been associated with increased risks for myopathy (severe muscle damage) and should be prescribed with caution, as well as at the lowest possible effective dose so that side effects are reduced. Research also found that statin use in the elderly was tied to efficacy, according to the professional physician group, the AMDA, and its list of five questionable medical tests and treatments.

Another study found statins may reduce exercise benefits in obese adults; prior studies found that people who take statins may face increased risks for developing age-related cataracts. Research has also seen that the association between statins and cataracts may be the same as for Type 2 diabetes, which is also a known risk factor for age-related cataracts. The finding is significant because statin use is typically greater in Type 2 diabetics when compared to the general population. An analysis of prior clinical trials cast doubt on statin efficacy in the prevention of blood clots, and an earlier ScienceDaily report revealed that 30 prior trials of statin drugs found that the drugs are barely effective at preventing blood clots, if at all.

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