A Bombshell Drops on Cholesterol Medication's Glass House
Tuesday, November 21, 2006 by: Byron Richards
It had to happen sooner or later. On October 3, 2006, after extensive review of all studies relating to cholesterol-lowering benefits by statin drugs, scientists reporting in the Annals of Internal Medicine pulled the rug out from under the current government-sanctioned cholesterol levels for reducing cardiovascular disease risk. Their conclusion, "current clinical evidence does not demonstrate that titrating lipid therapy to achieve proposed low LDL cholesterol levels is beneficial or safe." This is not a trivial issue. Many billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted on the cholesterol drug scam. The health and well being of millions of Americans may have been compromised by reckless lowering of cholesterol, a substance that is vital to health and energy production.
It has long been recognized that adults who have naturally lower cholesterol levels during their 40s and 50s have less heart disease as they grow older. A large body of science supports the notion that LDL cholesterol levels lower than 130 mg/dL is an excellent goal for one and all. How a person should arrive at this goal is a matter of considerable debate. A good diet and exercise is the foundation for any person's health program and for many this approach is adequate. The use of nutritional supplements to help lower cholesterol, products that have virtually no side effects and may be highly effective, is considered by the FDA to be an illegal health claim. Instead, the FDA expects Americans to use statin drugs to accomplish this goal, even though the medications have a general anti-energy effect and long list of potentially serious side effects that are not clearly explained to those taking the medications or even to the doctors giving them out.
To make matters worse, several years ago the government-funded National Cholesterol Education Program promoted new guidelines for the use of these drugs. It was recommend that individuals at high cardiovascular disease risk attain LDL levels < 100 mg/dL and individuals at very high cardiovascular risk attain LDL levels < 70 mg/dL. These are abnormally low levels of cholesterol, meaning drugs must be used to create an artificially low level of LDL cholesterol, an unnatural physiological condition. This is very difficult to do and requires high doses of statins, doubling or tripling the dose, oftentimes combined with other drugs. Needless to say, such therapies are extremely expensive and often do not work. These guidelines immediately boosted the sales of statins from fifteen billion per year when the report was released in 2004 to over twenty-two billion in 2005. And now we come to find out there is not a shred of scientific evidence to support that lowering cholesterol in this manner will reduce cardiovascular disease, compared to simply having an LDL lower than 130.
Statins are also being pushed for prevention of a first heart attack in people with only moderate cardiovascular risk. A careful analysis of the statistical data shows that such statin use may reduce cardiovascular death by 1% in this preventive population over a ten year period. However, the drugs kill 1% as a side effect, due to accidents, suicide, and infection. This means there is no benefit at all, from a societal point of view, for wasting billions of dollars of taxpayer money on this pointless preventive strategy.
The amount of money wasted on this fraudulent scheme is at least seven billion dollars a year, money that is in essence stolen from hard working Americans. Class-action lawsuits have already been filed against Pfizer for illegal Lipitor promotion, many are sure to follow.
Big Pharma and Government Corruption
The National Cholesterol Education Program is part of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), meaning that it is part of our federal government and has an operating budget of about one million dollars per year. In 2004 it selected a panel of nine "experts" to review statin drug use and make recommendations as to guidelines doctors should follow to reduce cardiovascular disease.
On July 13, 2004 these nine experts published their findings in the journal Circulation. Their paper lists the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; American College of Cardiology Foundation; American Heart Association as coauthors – meaning these various groups supported the findings.
Circulation failed to disclose that six of the nine authors had direct financial ties to the makers of statin drugs. Those drugs include Pfizer's Lipitor; Bristol-Myers Squibb's Pravachol, Merck's Lovastatin, and AstraZeneca's Crestor. For example, Newsday.com reported on July 14, 2004, "Dr. H. Bryan Brewer, a physician-scientist at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, was one of the guidelines' authors. He was the subject of a letter to the director of the National Institutes of Health last week from a consumer watchdog, Public Citizen's Health Research Group. The advocacy organization charged that Brewer had failed to disclose his ties to AstraZeneca. Brewer, according to the letter, had written a glowing report in a medical journal about Crestor without disclosing that he is a paid consultant and had presided over a company-sponsored symposium."
Even though these connections were slightly exposed in the media at the time, no action was taken to review the credibility of the statin science by other less biased researchers. Instead, the public relations buzz was that the statin "science" was solid.
The October 3 review in the Annals of Internal Medicine tears this "solid science" to shreds, something that should have been done two years ago. The review explains the deceitful manipulation of statistics and how not one study proves that lowering LDL cholesterol to the super low levels recommended has any benefit in reducing cardiovascular disease. Simply put, this report is shocking.
The New York Times did manage to report on this issue; however, the reporting is more a defense of the status quo than a consumer wake-up call to a major health scam costing us billions of dollars.
The bottom line: there is no credible science, and there never was, that offered proof that lowering cholesterol levels to physiologically abnormal levels reduced cardiovascular risk. Thus, basing a broad governmental public health recommendation on no solid science is flat our wrong. Why aren't these faulty recommendations being reversed?
The Extreme Dangers of Statin Drugs are Downplayed
In my book, Fight for Your Health: Exposing the FDA's Betrayal of America I spend several chapters documenting all the clearly known risks of statin drugs, citing over 140 references. Even though it is the most widely used drug in America, most doctors prescribing it are not aware of its many side effects. Statins are known to disrupt energy production, weaken the adrenal glands, interrupt vitamin D synthesis, block co-enzyme Q10 production, induce cardiomyopathy, damage kidneys, weaken or damage muscles, and in a variety of situations increase cancer risk.
There are numerous reports of suicide, depression, and cognitive impairment from statin use. Since many elderly patients are using statins, statins are likely to cause brain damage with ongoing use. This is not difficult for anyone to understand. Brain cells contain higher levels of cholesterol in their cell membranes, enabling nerve cells to survive longer. Nerve cells do not split and divide like other cells in the body, thus they must have a higher level of cholesterol – this is normal. One clear adverse effect of statins is lowering the nerve cell-membrane level of cholesterol, resulting in premature cellular death. Maintaining proper levels of cholesterol in the brain is vital to normal nerve function. This toxic effect of statins will be worse on a higher dose and nerve damage will progressively accumulate over time. Doctors, mostly unaware they could be inducing cognitive decline or neuropathy in their patients, may prescribe other brain medications to treat the decline in nervous system function, thinking the symptoms are just part of the aging process. This is a tragedy.
Another seldom mentioned adverse side effect of statins is that they directly interfere with immune system function. Statin pushers like to claim this is a benefit, reducing inflammation. There is an element of truth in this; however, there are much better ways to reduce inflammation than by use of statins that actually block immune signals. The same system being blocked by statins is required for a robust response to combat infection. The immune suppressing effects are so powerful statins are being considered as adjunctive therapy for organ transplant patients. What happens to a person's immune defense when they are on a super high dose of statins to lower cholesterol to abnormally low levels? How is anybody on high-dose statin therapy supposed to fight the flu? What happens if a pandemic flu strain hits? Guess which citizens won't make it?
It is more than alarming when scientists reviewing high-dose statin therapy state there is no science to show that such therapy is safe. Where is the FDA when they are needed? Why isn't the FDA requiring more testing before allowing doctors to use statins in an unapproved manner? Why is the FDA attacking super-safe nutritional strategies to help Americans naturally and safely normalize cholesterol levels?
There is good reason many Americans are turning to safe and effective natural options as part of a health strategy to maintain cholesterol levels in a better range. This latest fiasco is proof that government and Big Pharma work together to push drug sales, oftentimes disregarding the true effects on human health. How much longer can Americans tolerate a government on the take from Big Pharma?
Byron J. Richards, Founder/Director of Wellness Resources, is a Board-Certified Clinical Nutritionist and nationally-renowned health expert, radio personality, educator, and author.
Richards encourages individuals to take charge of their health, stand up for their health rights, and not blindly succumb to propaganda from the vested-interests who profit from keeping Americans sick. Author of Mastering Leptin and Fight for Your Health, Richards is now joining forces with health freedom leaders in the U.S. and throughout the world. Visit his health blog for up to date happenings. www.truthinwellness.com