The Next Statin Scam: Preventing Strokes

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August 24, 2006 | 18,543 views

A new study supports the use of cholesterol-lowering statin medications to help prevent the recurrence of a stroke. The drugs seemed to help even those with no prior history of heart disease. The study was funded by Pfizer, the drug company that makes Lipitor.

Reduced Risk

Researchers looked at more than 4,700 people, none with a history of coronary disease, who had suffered from strokes or transient ischemic attacks, a ministroke caused by the temporary blockage of a brain artery. Patients who took Lipitor after a stroke had their risk of a second stroke reduced by 16 percent over five years.

Same Death Rate

However, there was no difference in the overall death rate between those who took statins following their stroke and those who did not. There was also a slight increase in stroke risk among patients who took statins following a rarer kind of stroke caused by a leaking blood vessel.

Pfizer will earn over $13 billion this year from Lipitor and it makes perfect sense for them to fund a study that would broaden the indications for their blockbuster drug. After all, they surely could use a few more billion dollars.

They have been having some recent PR problems with Lipitor and there have been a few lawsuits they have had to battle.

However, it is really questionable whether Lipitor really does decrease the risk of strokes. You need to read between the lines of this one to uncover what the study really says, which is not quite what Pfizer claims it says.

For one thing, although the risk of a second stroke was reduced for the study participants, there was no difference in mortality rates. In other words, while you might not die of a stroke, you'll still have the exact same chance of dying as you would if you never took the drug. Some benefit.

Considering studies funded by drug companies, more often than not, highly favor the drug being tested, it should come as no surprise Pfizer found a silver lining in this study to keep the attention off future legal battles that could detract from the reputation of its prized cash cow, on track to make $13 billion in 2006.

When you read a study, remember to pay careful attention to who funded it. It's been shown that drugs are given positive reviews in 80 percent of studies funded by the company that makes the drug -- as opposed to 50 percent of studies not funded by industry and 30 percent of studies conducted by competitors of the drug's maker.

I was just at a health seminar in Colorado with about 100 physicians and I was amazed at how many were clueless that the way to normalize cholesterol is with diet. Radically reducing sugars and grains, yes even whole grains, will reduce insulin levels, which drive the liver to produce cholesterol.

Additionally, taking high-quality omega-3 fats like krill oil will not reduce your cholesterol level, but it can radically reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. Meanwhile, taking a drug like Lipitor can harm your immune system and cause many other dangerous side effects.

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