Should everyone over 50 be treated with cholesterol-lowering drugs, regardless of whether they suffer from heart disease?
A new review of previous research shows that even people with no history of heart disease may slightly lower their risk for heart disease with preventative statin medication*.
There are three reasons to be skeptical of mass medication of the healthy population:
All studies included in the review were sponsored by pharmaceutical companies, that sell the drugs involved. It’s not controversial that this leads to positive effects being exaggerated and negative side effects being silenced.
When big money like this is at stake, pharmaceutical companies will use every trick in the book. One of the more obvious examples was when the gigantic JUPITER trial was prematurely terminated by AstraZeneca, just when the figures for their drug happened to look good.
These are not harmless vitamin pills we’re talking about. Statins come with relatively frequent side effects, such as muscle pain, muscle weakness, fatigue, a slightly reduced cognitive functioning (on average) and an increased risk of diabetes.
The reduction in risk of heart disease in previously heart healthy individuals is hardly great. According to this review the chance of preventing a heart attack, or a similar event, by taking a drug for five years is 1.8 percent! Thus, there is a 98.2 percent likelihood that taking the drug for five years doesn’t protect against such health problems. The risk of troublesome side effects? Significantly greater than the chance of any benefit.
Note that a 1.8 precent chance of benefitting from five years of medication only applies if we blindly trust the pharmaceutical companies’ own studies. Most likely the results are exaggerated, so the chance of a benefit would likely be significantly less than 1.8 percent.
Most people probably wouldn’t accept the risk of side effects and long-term medication if told about the 98 percent (at least) risk of having done so in vain.
*/ If this is caused by a lower total cholesterol, a lower LDL cholesterol or a reduction in the number of small, dense LDL is impossible to tell. But my guess is the latter.
Another way to reduce small dense LDL particles, without using statin drugs? A low carb diet.