Crestor and Other Statins: Are They Really Worth the Risk?

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November 08, 2003 | 65,116 views

ByDr. Joseph Mercola
with Rachael Droege

With at least 12 million Americans taking cholesterol-loweringdrugs, mostly statins, and experts' recommendations that another23 million should be taking them, it's no wonder that the drugcompanies are scrambling to get their piece of the pie by releasingnew and "improved" statin drugs.

AstraZeneca just released their new statin called Crestor (genericname rosuvastatin). According to the company, Crestor is less expensiveand more effective than similar drugs like Pfizer's Lipitor, which is currently the statin market leader, takingin about $8 billion of the $13 billion total statin sales in 2002.

And while it appears that the drug may be slightly better thanother statins at raising good (HDL) cholesterol levels, there areloads of safety concerns surrounding the drug. For instance, thehighest, 80-milligram dose of Crestor could not be approved becauseof serious side effects including muscle and kidney damage. Somesay the drug may produce side effects even at lower doses, and cautionthat patients should be closely monitored when on the drug.

Of course, all statins pose risks, so the question of which statinis most dangerous is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Dangers of statindrugs include, but are not limited to, a potential increase in liverenzymes so patients must be monitored for normal liver function,muscle aches, weakness, immune system suppression, an increase in cancer risk, and a serious degenerative muscle tissuecondition called rhabdomyolysis.

Naturally, one would assume that with the extensive list of sideeffects associated with statins, they must be doing some prettygood things. Well, what statins do do is lower cholesterol levels,that is true. But if lowering your cholesterol is your goal, whynot try a healthy diet with littleto no grains and sugars? This will work in the majority of cases.On a side note, eliminating sugar and grains will inevitably causebeneficial side effects, such as normalizing your weight, increasingyour energy and lowering your blood pressure and triglycerides.

But suppose that lowering your "bad" (LDL) cholesterolwas not actually the key to lowering your risk of heart attacksand heart disease? Would you still want to risk all of those statinside effects? Well, this is just what several research studies havefound, raising the basic question of whether statin drugs even workto lower the risk of heart disease.

One study, published in the August 2003 American Journal of Cardiology found that lowering badcholesterol with statin drugs may not reduce the rate at which plaquebuilds up in the arteries surrounding the heart. This finding fliesin the face of the widespread belief that lowering LDL cholesterollevels is the best way to reduce arterial plaque. In the study,participants taking varying doses of a statin did generally lowertheir cholesterol. However, all the groups had an average increasein arterial plaque of 9.2 percent.

Another study published in the December2002 Journal of the American Medical Association looked at theeffect of statin drugs versus usual care (improving diet, exercise,etc.). While the statin group did lower their bad cholesterol levelssignificantly more than the usual care group, both groups had theSAME rates of death and heart disease.

In light of these reports, and the known dangers of statin drugs,you would expect some major news in the area of statins, but thestudies received hardly any mainstream media coverage. As with manyhealth care issues, you'll have to sort out the truth for yourself.

If you truly want to prevent heart disease, check out my article Protect Yourself From Heart Disease With Simple Lifestyle Changes. For a quick tip, oneof the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your risk of heartdisease is by increasing the omega-3 in your diet. Omega-3 fattyacids, which are found in oily fish and fish oils, offer great protection. Studies have shownthat omega-3 works by preventing the buildup of fatty deposits inthe arteries. One of the best ways to make sure you have enoughomega-3 in your diet is by regularly consuming krill oil.

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