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Statin Drugs: Another Industry-Sponsored Study, Another Deceptive Result

November 27, 2008 | 41,681 views

drugs, pills, medicineA large, Harvard-led study claims that taking statin cholesterol-lowering drugs reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke among people with “silent heart disease” and normal cholesterol levels.

The study, named JUPITER, involved over 17,800 people who had high C-reactive protein levels, which previous studies have shown are an indicator of inflammation and heart disease risk, even among those otherwise considered healthy.

The study divided the subjects into two groups, with half receiving rosuvastatin (Crestor) and the rest receiving a placebo. The results showed a nearly 50 percent reduction in the risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart-related death among the statin group.

Based on the seemingly promising results, an independent data and safety monitoring board voted to end the study early, after less than two years.

Not everyone is jumping for joy over the study’s results, however. Many physicians are skeptical of statins’ perceived benefits, particulalry because the study was funded by the drug company Astra-Zeneca, the maker of the statin drug used in the trial.
 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

If you were to read this latest study on cholesterol-lowering drugs superficially, or just glance over the recent headlines, you would think that statin drugs were a boon to humankind.

The study boasts that these “miracle pills” lower the risk of heart attack by 54 percent, the risk of stroke by 48 percent, the risk of needing angioplasty or bypass surgery by 46 percent and the risk of death from all causes by 20 percent. With numbers like these it would seem logical to encourage everyone to take them..

Well, that is precisely what Astra-Zeneca, the maker of Crestor (one of the most dangerous statins on the market) and also, conveniently, the funder of this study, is hoping for.

Statins are already one of the most widely prescribed class of drugs. This new data has the potential to push their already vastly inflated usage over the edge. But with a more thorough analysis of the results, it becomes clear that this would only benefit Astra-Zeneca’s profits -- NOT your personal health.

Why You Can’t Trust the Results of This Study

A survey of clinical trials revealed that when a drug company funds a study, there is a 90 percent chance that the drug will be perceived as effective whereas a non-drug-company-funded study will show favorable results just 50 percent of the time.

This study was not only funded by the maker of the drug it was testing, but massive conflict of interest was uncovered among the trial’s oversight committee. This committee is given the responsibility of periodically checking up on the “blind” data to find out how those taking Crestor were faring compared to those on a placebo.

According to an ABC News opinion piece by Nortin Hadler, M.D.:

“The JUPITER oversight committee comprised luminaries in the world of cardiology who, like nearly all the principal JUPITER trial investigators, had declared financial involvements with the industry that serves the cardiovascular enterprise, many with AstraZeneca.”

Anyone who still believes this study is unbiased is going through a serious case of denial, but it gets even more blatant than this.

The results have been manipulated to sound much better than they really are.

The headlines are all boasting of a 50 percent or higher reduced risk of heart attack and strokes. This does not mean that out of 100 people, 50 or more were “saved” by Crestor, because only 2 percent of all the study participants had a cardiovascular event during the study’s first two years in the first place.

Although they are not lying they are clearly manipulating the language to give the impression that the drug is far more effective than it really is. If you break down the numbers, only 1.6 percent of those taking Crestor had a cardiovascular event, compared to 2.8 taking a placebo. This is a difference of just 1.2 percent!

The difference between the two numbers can lead the public to believe the effect was actually 5,000% higher than it actually was.

How Many People Were Actually Helped by Statins?

To find out how effective Crestor really was in the trial, you need to examine a little known statistic called “number needed to treat” or NNT.

NNT answers the question: How many people have to take a particular drug to avoid one incidence of a medical issue (such as a heart attack, or recurrence of cancer)? For example, if a drug had an NNT of 50 for heart attacks, then 50 people have to take the drug in order to prevent one heart attack.

That doesn’t sound like a lot, so pharmaceutical companies tend to keep the number quiet and focus on broader, U.S. population-based statistics.

The JUPITER study, for instance, found that for every 100 people, 0.77 on Crestor and 1.36 on a placebo would suffer a cardiovascular event. From this the researchers deduced that there was a 56 percent reduction in all cardiovascular events from taking Crestor.

But this data is a whole lot like looking at yourself in a fun-house mirror -- it’s incredibly deceptive.

The rate of people suffering cardiovascular events during the study was already very small. The claimed “reduction” from taking Crestor was even smaller. So though it may amount to a 56 percent reduced risk, it is a 56 percent reduction of a very low risk, that impacts a very small number of people.

Looking at it in terms of NNT, Dr. Hadler points out:

“I'd have to treat a hundred or more people with Crestor for a year to spare one of them a cardiovascular event that they would not have otherwise had. I'd have to treat several hundred for a year to spare one a heart attack, and perhaps hundreds more to spare one a stroke. I am unwilling to even suggest a life-saving benefit.”

Suddenly the results don’t sound so amazing, right? And before you jump on the statin bandwagon, you must be prepared to ask yourself some questions.

“Are you willing to swallow Crestor every day for two years in the hopes you're the one in hundreds who just might be spared a non-fatal heart attack?

Does it bother you that more of the volunteers on Crestor were diagnosed with diabetes? … Does it bother you that the occasional person on Crestor develops a muscle disease, or that some have liver or kidney irritation?” Dr. Hadler asks.

Find a Healthier Option as Statin Drugs Have Serious Risks

So taking them for the very slim chance that it may prevent a heart attack is completely counterproductive. The possible consequences of taking statins include:

• Depression of mental acuity
• Anemia
• Acidosis
• Frequent fevers

• Cataracts
Muscle pain and weakness
• An increase in cancer risk

Statin drugs can also actually increase your risk of heart disease because they deplete your body of Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) (which ironically can lead to heart failure). They may also cause a dangerous increase in liver enzymes so patients must be monitored for normal liver function while taking the drugs.

With at least 12 million Americans taking statins, and “experts'” recommendations that another 23 million “should” be taking them, it's important to educate yourself on this issue now, before another “breakthrough” study comes along urging even more people to take these worthless drugs.

Now, there is a very small group of people with genetic enzyme defects that end up having cholesterol levels above 325-350. These are about the only individuals who seem to benefit from statins. In my clinical experience, which spans more than two decades and thousands of patients, there have been a grand total of three people who required statins to control this genetic problem.

For the rest of you, taking statins is just not worth the risk.

Effective Options to Statins

1. One of the most important steps in lowering your heart disease risk is to take a high-quality krill oil that is chock full of beneficial omega-3 fats.

2. Make sure you’re eating the right foods for your body’s unique nutritional type.

3. Optimize your insulin levels. If your fasting insulin level is not lower than three consider limiting or eliminating your intake of grains and sugars until you optimize your insulin level.

4. Start an exercise program that is tailored to your body's specific needs. When you exercise, you increase your circulation and the blood flow throughout your body. The components of your immune system are also better circulated, which means your immune system has a better chance of fighting an illness before it has the opportunity to spread.

5. Avoid harmful habits like smoking, which jeopardize your health.

6. Make sure your vitamin D levels are optimized. Most people are not aware that vitamin D can have a profoundly dramatic impact on normalizing blood pressure and lowering your risk for heart disease.

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