My Dad has written an article about his experiences with statin drugs. He was put on these a few years ago when, despite being a slim, fit, healthy non-smoker, his heart disease risk was deemed high because his cholesterol levels were above the new recommended limit. Here is his story:
“Six years ago I walked into my doctor’s surgery a healthy 68 year old and walked out a man diagnosed with a potentially fatal condition.
I thought I was fit and well. That summer I had rowed in an eight miles Celtic Longboat race and prepared for this by six weeks of tough training. I regularly walked the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, went hiking in the Preseli Hills and enjoyed sea kayaking. And the doctor’s initial checks seemed consistent with this: my blood pressure was 115/80; my resting pulse in the mid 50s; my weight 150 lbs; no signs of sugar in my blood; my BMI in the low 20s. All that was left was to check my cholesterol.
Returning for the result I was told that my GP wanted to see me. He said that new government advice had lowered the figures regarded as healthy for cholesterol. My cholesterol figures were now considered high. I was told that a high cholesterol puts you at greater risk of a heart attack. He offered free statins on prescription. So one minute I am active and very fit and the next I am offered statins as a precaution against a heart attack.
“I am not saying you should take them but this is the official government advice,” said my doctor.
Neither my wife (who is a doctor) nor myself, after much discussion, could see the need for these powerful drugs. Again, suppose I have a heart attack or stroke which they could have prevented. The two saddest words in the language are said to be “if only.” The government advice was clear, that statins offer exceptional protection against heart disease and other illnesses. Their benefits, they claimed, outweigh any possible side effects. They do not come cheap and are a vastly expensive cost on the NHS. I decided to take them.
“You will need to have a liver function test before you begin and then regularly to make sure they have not caused liver problems,” said the nurse. So, my healthy liver has to be checked every six months to ensure this drug does not wreck it. I still wonder why I did not see the irony, never mind stupidity, of what I was doing?
At this time statins had been hyped as the next wonder drug. I read that the majority of cardiologists over 50 in the USA were taking statins. In the USA the pharmaceutical companies spend more on marketing drugs than they do on research and development. Drug trials are often conducted by companies with a strong financial incentive to find the drugs effective.
What was not publicised is that high cholesterol does not cause heart disease. Nor does a high fat diet, saturated or not, affect blood cholesterol levels. Nor that the beneficial effects of statins are so minor for most people that they are not worth taking. Why spoil a nice piece of hype with some facts?
Side effects, some horrible, are ignored, denied or attributed to other causes. Doctors are overworked and don’t necessarily have time to question government advice; politicians are ignorant and just possibly influenced by drug companies; and the public is anxious and perhaps a little too trusting. Statins are the most profitable drugs ever and the pharmaceutical companies earn billions of pounds from them.
Within a few weeks a print out of my cholesterol reading from the surgery showed that the figures had almost halved. My liver was still normal. I remember poring over the low cholesterol figures, in the surgery, with my wife. We were delighted. The euphoria turned out to be brief.
Within weeks I became depressed, lethargic and fatigued. I had accepted the conventional dietary advice of fruit, vegetables, wholemeal bread, soya replacing milk and an olive oil spread replacing butter, and my weight had soared to 164 lbs. My love of exercise had gone. I had no interest in reading and writing and my memory had deteriorated dramatically. One day, after forcing myself to walk for twenty minutes, I feared that I might not be able to get home. My thighs ached, my legs felt weak and I was leaning in distress against a grass bank. I didn’t connect my failing physical and mental health to statins.
“This must be it,” I thought. “I’m knackered. Old age has hit me at last.” I dragged myself home. Grasping at straws I wondered if something in my diet had affected me? Did I have some kind of virus? Or was I now just old and decrepit?
The following week I read an article in The Sunday Times about the under reported and damaging side effects of statins. Doctors, having recommended statins, were none too keen to attribute ill health to them. By now statins were being distributed on prescription for healthy patients. This, of course, is the Holy Grail of money making for a pharmaceutical company: a drug that healthy people consume to stop them becoming unhealthy. And the state picks up most of the bill.
I followed some leads from the Sunday Times article via the Internet and bought my first book about statins and cholesterol. This was The Cholesterol Myths: Exposing the Fallacy that Saturated Fat and Cholesterol cause Heart Disease by Uffe Ravnskov M.D., Ph.D . Looking at the evidence, the research and the medical history produced a profound attitude change. I then read The Diet Delusion by Gary Taubes and The Great Cholesterol Con by Anthony Colpo.
I became convinced that the government advice on diet, cholesterol and statins is damaging to health. I, and millions of others, were the victims of a massive con while huge sums, funded by NHS budgets, flowed into the coffers of the pharmaceutical companies. Nothing convinced me as much as relating the damaging effects of statins, described in the literature, to my own experience.
I read that low cholesterol leads to reduced serotonin levels in the brain which leads to depression. Statins are associated with polyneuropaphy which amongst other problems causes difficulty in walking, decreased sensation in hands and feet and fatigue. I could have been reading about myself.
I stopped taking statins. My wife asked, “Are you sure? Before you decide you had better listen to this.” “This” was a consultant cardiologist on a phone in BBC programme advising that a caller should start taking statins as a preventive move.
“I have already stopped,” I said. By this time my symptoms were so similar to those I had discovered from my reading that I was convinced that statins were the cause. In three weeks my depression had lifted and I was soon as physically active as before. I also returned to my previous diet.
I drink organic full cream milk, eat butter and cheese and every day I eat eggs from our own chickens. My weight is again 150 lbs. Most of the diet advice peddled by the government and the diet gurus is wrong. We need fat as the brain cannot function without it. The villain in the diet is not fat but carbohydrates.
The foisting of these powerful drugs, with major side effects, on to healthy people continues. When this is allied to perverse dietary advice, supported by the government, the results are before us: an obesity epidemic. We cling to diet advice as if we were religious fundamentalists wedded to a faith. Accept the received wisdom. Do not question or you will suffer. And never think for yourself. ”
I saw the change in my Dad when he went on these drugs. But initially even the family didn’t question the wisdom of the government recommendations. Initially we trusted the advice Dad had been given.
The drug companies use statistics in clever ways that are very difficult to understand. You might be told “This drug reduces your chance of having a heart attack by 30%” Sounds good? What if they said:”If 1000 men with your health profile took this drug for 5 years, it would prevent one death”. This could be the same drug. It’s about how you present the figures. You need to ask about “all cause mortality” because the drug companies will say that statins reduce your chance of a heart attack but they won’t mention that they increase your chance of dying of other causes. And you need to ask about “numbers needed to treat” i.e. how many people will have to take this drug for how long to save one life?”
Another possible question to ask your GP is: “Would you advise your own father/mother/brother to take this drug?” The doctors are often in a difficult position. They may not feel that they should go against government guidlines. Sometimes this question makes it easier for them to give an honest opinion. In fact, Dad’s GP said that he wouldn’t advise his own father to take statins in similar circumstances.
Here’s a website for statin victims, with links to research: http://statinvictims.org/
Here are the comments appended to a petition to investigate statins. It makes scary reading. http://www.joimr.org/Cable_supplementary_docs.pdf
This blog post has been moved from another website, so these comments have just been copied over:
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i am taking statins, even though my cholestrol was only 4. i have high blood pressure, and an ecg showed i’d suffered a mild heart attack, caused by Vioxx a drug used for arthritis, i had been on Vioxx 3years, this was over 7/8 yrs ago approx. So i was put on statins as a precaution. I have lost weight, but have no appetite no energy, panick attacks depression, memory is terrible and i can’t remember or store any information, if you told me your name ,i will forget it before end of conversation, i have to write everything down, like app.I have no energy, depression, sleepless nights, muscle pain, and joint pain, and irratible leg syndrome,I am now 8st 2ib down from 9st 13ib.i use d to rid e my horse, walk every where,now i won’t go out and mix. I also have IBS. My life is constant pain, i am 61 and feel like 100.i now have no interest in my home, I love my partner dearly. but have lost all interest in the bedroom, i am emotionaly drained. so i am now going to stop the statins for 1month and see if coming of them makes a difference. i can relate to others on here and found their experiences have helped me. i thought i was a total neurotic.