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Junk Science? Number 6: Statins save the world

Junk Science Number 6: Statins save the world
A friend went to his UK doctor. The conversation went like this:
Doctor: ‘I recommend you start taking statins.’
Patient: ‘But what about the side-effects?’
Doctor: ‘There are none.’
Patient: ‘Well I heard they can affect your muscles and heart.’
Doctor: ‘No problem, we monitor those for you.’

The research evidence suggests that statins depress coenzyme Q10 levels. A Merck study (1990) showed statins reduce CoQ10 production. Co Q10 is found in the mitochondria – the power stations in every cell in your body. The more active the tissue – muscles, heart, brain etc – the more mitochondria and the more Q10. Co Q10 is also believed to play an important role in the ‘health’ of the mitochondria, not just in its power generating activities. Mitochondria possess the power to cause cell death if something negative arises – for example, in genetic malfunction. In cancer, the mitochondria shut down and lose the ability to cause cell death, making cancer cells virtually immortal.

Co Q10 levels decline anyway as you age.

Statins are a 25 billion dollar world wide business. They are designed to reduce cholesterol levels and reduce cardiovascular disease.

New research links statins to increases in diabetes – Jan 10th 2012
A new study from the Massachusetts Medical School confirms a new and potentially dangerous side effect of statin drugs – diabetes. (Archives of Internal Medicine)

The research report analysed more than 153,000 postmenopausal women who enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative study in the 1990s. None of the women had diabetes at the outset, but 7 per cent were taking statins.

15 years later the women were followed up and nearly 10 percent of women taking statins had developed diabetes, compared to only 6.4 percent in women who took no statin drugs.

Further analysis by Harvard shows that women over the age of 45 are 50 per cent more likely to develop diabetes if they’re taking a statin drug.

Given the already widespread use of statins, and the push to encourage all people over 50 to consider taking them for heart issues and cholesterol problems, this finding is deeply concerning. The impact on Western populations could be huge.

Several reports have made the diabetes connection before – for example, the first in 2008 was a study of the drug Crestor; and in June 2010 a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association analysed five additional randomised trials and concluded the increased risk was small but real for people taking higher doses of any statin.

In 2009 a Diabetes Care a meta-study warned: ‘Although statin therapy greatly lowers vascular risk, including among those with and at risk for diabetes, the relationship of statin therapy to incident diabetes remains uncertain. Future statin trials should be designed to formally address this issue’, such were the mixed results.

But with the new and worrying research findings there seems already to be an attempt to down play the significance.
Dr. Steven Nissen, cardiology chairman at the Cleveland Clinic, who wasn’t involved with the Harvard research opined, “We don’t want these drugs in the water supply, but we want the right people treated. When they are, this effect is not a significant limitation.” (

In the Lancet, volume 375, under the heading of ‘The new risk – diabetes’, Christopher P Cannon states: All drugs have side-effects. Indeed, all interventions (including even exercise programmes) have side-effects. The balance in medicine is to evaluate the benefits and weigh them against the risks. For statins, the benefits in reducing clinical events have been shown in a multitude of trials with more than 500 000 patient-years of treatment. This benefit has led to their inclusion in national guidelines as a key component of both primary and secondary prevention.

So that’s aright then.

At the US National Institutes of Health, diabetes specialist Dr. Judith Fradkin says statins’ benefits outweigh the potential side effect, and that newly developed diabetes won’t harm right away.

So that’s definitely alright then!

Deaths from heart disease are not in decline, and nor is type 2 diabetes. Worse the official website for the American Heart Association says, “Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes.”

According to the American Diabetes Association, there are numerous trials showing a benefit from statin therapy in primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease and mortality. However, their report goes on to say that there is no evidence that statins reduce all-case mortality.

If statins are confirmed as causing a 50 per cent increase in diabetes, it could prove a huge cost to the world, both to patients and government purses.  

The American Medical Association 2009 report on statins and diabetes calculated that one fewer patient would experience a heart attack or other cardiovascular problem for every 155 patients treated for a year – and there would be one additional case of diabetes for every 498 patients treated. So three saved from heart attack for each new type-2 diabetes sufferer.

The final word belongs to Dr. Yunsheng Ma of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, who led the study of postmenopausal women: “The statin should not be seen as the magic pill.”  

It could be a bit late for that.

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