Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice. It is informational in purpose only
and taken from numerous readily available articles written by physicians and researchers. For
medical advice consult with an informed physician.
This is the
information I would want any friend or family member on statins to be told by their physician.
Extensive endnotes included. Don't just take my word for this stuff: your life and health may depend
Also Available: Bibliography
| Endnotes | Adobe Acrabot (PDF) version | Short version
What are statins?
Statins, also called HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, are
a class of drugs that are designed to interfere with the biosynthesis of cholesterol. They operate
by interfering with one of the first steps in cholesterol synthesis: unfortunately they also inhibit
the production of other intermediary substances needed by our body. (1)
A study of 10 major trials of statins concludes . . .
"Do Statins Have a Role in Primary Prevention" is a review of 10 major statin trials conducted by
the Therapeutics Initiative of the the Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics of the
University of British Columbia. Here are their conclusions: (2)
- "If cardiovascular serious adverse events are viewed in isolation, 71 primary prevention
patients with cardiovascular risk factors have to be treated with a statin for 3 to 5 years to
prevent one myocardial infarction or stroke."
- "This cardiovascular benefit is not reflected
in 2 measures of overall health impact, total mortality and total serious adverse events. Therefore,
statins have not been shown to provide an overall health benefit in primary prevention
In plain English, the study says that if you are taking statins to prevent
myocardial infarction ("heart attack") or stroke:
- Only 1 of 71 people (1.4%) will have a
heart attack or stroke prevented every 3-5 years. [So, yes, statins do provide some protection
against heart attacks.]
- Despite protecting 1 person in 71, the death rate of those taking
statins was just as high as those not taking statins: as a group, there was no increase in
By taking statins you are betting that you will be that 1 person in 71 who
benefits, that the statins won't cause you to die by some other means and that any adverse effects
caused by the drug (see below) will be not be too severe.
Joel M. Kaufman tells us this
result of studies before 2000: (3)
Long-term use of
statins for primary prevention of heart disease produced a 1% greater risk of death over 10 years
vs. placebo when the results of all the big controlled trials reported before 2000 were combined
(Jackson PR et al. Statins for primary prevention: at what coronary risk is safety assured? Br J
Clin Pharmacol 2001;52:439-46).
A note on relative vs. absolute risk
statistics your doctor tells you about statins may sound different than the "1 in 71" figure above.
Dr. Paul Rosch gives three ways to report the same result: (4)
- "Over five years, patients taking this drug had 34% fewer heart attacks compared to controls
who took a placebo. (Sounds pretty convincing)"
- "Over five years only 2.7% of patients
taking this drug had a heart attack compared to 4.1% taking a placebo. (Also not too bad)"
- "If seventy-one people take this drug every day for five years it will prevent one of them from
having a heart attack. However, there is no guarantee that you will be that person. (These odds are
not very attractive)"
Item 1 uses "relative risk," item 2 uses "absolute risk" and item
3 tells you what the statistics really mean. ("Numbers never lie but you can lie with numbers.")
If you are a woman, elderly, or a man at lower cardiac risk . . .
According to Beatrice
A. Golomb, MD, PhD, the leading researcher for the National Institutes of Health's study of the
"side effects" of statins and a firm believer that statins can save lives:
benefit to survival with statins or other cholesterol-lowering agents has never been
demonstrated in women (even those at high cardiac risk), in the older elderly, or in
men at lower cardiac risk . . . (5) [emphasis added]
Let me repeat that: statins have never been shown to provide survival
benefit for women, the older elderly, or men at lower cardiac risk. Never! No benefit ever shown for
women at high risk for a heart attack. Never!
The next Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)?
There are no long-term studies of statins:
they have not been around long enough. This is reminiscent of Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT),
which was widely prescribed in the absence of any long-term studies on safety. In 2001 there were
100 million women worldwide taking HRT. HRT was widely promoted not only as treatment for menopausal
symptoms but also as long-term preventive medicine for osteoporosis, heart disease and dementia; it
was also said to increase overall vitality and enhance sexual function. This was before 2003, when
evidence began to show that long term HRT use increases women's risk of heart attacks, strokes,
blood clots, breast cancer and dementia. (6)
Many of the same
people who were pushing HRTs are now pushing statins, apparently unconcerned about the ignorance of
the long-term consequences. And, just as with HRT, statins are being touted as preventative of other
conditions than heart disease without any good evidence. At what point in the future will there be
front-page articles revealing adverse effects of statins that the doctors never considered?
If you are taking statins, you are volunteering to test the long-term effects of an unknown drug
that disrupts the mechanism of one of the most critical components of the body (cholesterol: see
Coenzyme Q10 (Ubiquinone, or CoQ10) depletion.
Why is CoQ10 important?
Ubiquinone, or Coenzyme Q10, commonly referred to as CoQ10 is a "vitaminlike" substance -
it has the properties of a vitamin, can be obtained from foods (mostly animal foods), but is also
produced in our bodies by biosynthesis. (7) Its name "ubiquinone"
indicates its "ubiquitous nature" (meaning everywhere present) - it is found in every living
CoQ10 has a number of critical functions in our body:
- It is essential for
all cellular ATP production (occurring in the mitochondria, the power plants of the cell, indeed, of
the body). ATP is what our cells use for energy. "Without coenzyme Q-10, mitochondrial respiration
would be unable to function, and energy production would be minimal."(8)
- CoQ10 is particularly important in heart muscle function -
the heart uses a lot of it. (9)
- It is a potent anti-oxidant
(free radical scavenger) especially important in diminishing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. (10)
- It is found in all cell membranes and is vital for
maintaining membrane integrity. (11)
- It is critical to the
formation of elastin and collagen (found in connective tissues such as tendons and ligaments) (12)
Statins deplete CoQ10 in the body.
statins deplete CoQ10 in the body is widely known; information about this was first published in
1990. (13) Statins work by interrupting the process of the
biosynthesis of cholesterol and ". . . the biochemical pathway for CoQ10 synthesis is a branch of
the same pathway where cholesterol is made." (14) One
pharmaceutical company (Merck) has a patent on a drug combining statins and CoQ10 in one dose. (15) In Canada a precaution is included in the prescribing information
for statins. (16)
A review of studies on the depletion of
coenzyme Q10 by Peter H. Langsjoen, M.D., F.A.C.C. says:
Statin-induced decreases in
CoQ10 are more than just hypothetical drug-nutrient interactions. Good evidence exists of
significant CoQl0 depletion in humans and animals during statin therapy. (17)
Langsjoen observes that all statins deplete "both
the blood levels and the cellular concentrations of Q10." A higher dose will produce greater
depletion of CoQ10. One problem is that the depletion can be gradual over years making it hard to
tie an adverse effect three years (for instance) after starting statins back to the drug. This
depletion will be most dangerous in the elderly, for as we age our levels of CoQ10 decrease. (18)
Perhaps most important, supplemental CoQ10 can completely
reverse statin-induced CoQ10 depletion. (19)
NOTE: Of the 9 people I know taking statin drugs, only one was
initially informed by their physician that statins deplete CoQ10. A second friend was later told by
a different physician, whom he was seeing to deal with adverse effects from taking statins.
Possible effects of depleted CoQ10 in the body.
- Congestive heart failure. (20) (Ironic, no? Statins, prescribed to prevent heart attacks, may
precipitate congestive heart failure by depleting the body of CoQ10)
- Fatigue, muscle
weakness and soreness. (21) (See below under polyneuropathy.)
- Muscle and cell breakdown and nerve conduction
defects. (22) (See below under polyneuropathy.)
- Cancer (See below, under Cancer.)
Known "side effects" of statins.
Note: "Side effect" is a term used by physicians and drug manufacturers
to describe an undesirable effect of the drug that they wish did not exist. In truth,
any effect of a drug results from its designed mechanism. The human body
is extremely complex: interfering with one of its critical mechanisms is almost certain to have
unforeseen consequences, be they trivial or major.
Theoretically the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) is protecting you from drugs with adverse reactions. Baycol was a statin drug
that was recalled after 31 deaths in the United States, 50 worldwide: each of those deaths was
reported over a period of 2 years before the drug was recalled. (23)
According to the petition filed by Dr. Julian M. Whitaker,
M.D. with the FDA to mandate a warning about CoQ10 depletion with all statins, the Physicians' Desk
Reference (PDR) estimates .5% to 2.3% of patients using statins experience adverse events. (24) We can compare this to the number of heart attacks and strokes
prevented (1 in 71), which is 1.4%. (25)
Note: "The adverse
effects of statin drugs increase as the dosage increases." (26)
Most common problems
There are many possible undesirable effects of statin drugs:
The most common problems we hear reported pertain to muscle pain or weakness, fatigue,
memory and cognitive problems, sleep problems, and neuropathy. Erectile dysfunction, problems with
temperature regulation (feeling hot or cold, or having sweats), are among the other problems
Other effects include personality
changes and irritability. (28)
- memory loss, from:
- poor memory, to
memory impairment, to
- global amnesia;
- confusion and
According to Dr. Duane Graveline, in his 2006 book
Lipitor, Thief of Memory:
Total Global Amnesia, once so rare that most
physicians have never seen a case in their entire careers, is now quite common in our emergency
rooms associated with simply being on a statin drug. But amnesia is only the tip of the iceberg. For
every amnesia case report there are hundreds if not thousands of cases of confusion and severe
memory disturbance associated with being on statin drugs. (29)
Graveline says that, over a period of two years,
hundreds of reports of cognitive "side effects" have been passed onto FDA's Medwatch program, as
well as the pharmaceutical companies' reporting system for adverse reactions to drugs: no action has
been taken. He says:
Personally, I think statin drugs should be withheld from
military flight personnel until further study demonstrates their complete safety with regard to
brain function. (30)
Health Site defines polyneuropathy thus (these are all possible effects from taking statins):
Polyneuropathy A disorder that involves the slow progressive (or recurrent) inflammation
of multiple nerves. Loss of movement and sensation are common findings. Some symptoms that may be
associated with this disease include:
- facial weakness
- difficulty walking
- difficulty using the arms and hands or legs and feet
- sensation changes (usually of the
arms and hands or legs and feet), such as pain, burning, tingling, numbness, or decreased sensation
- swallowing difficulty
- speech impairment
- loss of muscle function or
feeling in the muscles
- joint pain
- hoarseness or changing voice
They report the following result of a study on statins and the
risk of polyneuropathy:
The authors note that their study showed that long-term
exposure to statins may substantially increase the risk of polyneuropathy. These findings suggest
that statins may have a toxic effect on peripheral nerves. One possible mechanism may be that by
interfering with cholesterol synthesis, statins may alter nerve membrane function. (32)
Other statin-associated muscle problems (33)
According to the Colorado Health Site, statin drugs are
- myopathy (any disease of the muscles; symptoms include
weakness of limbs) - can be progressive, severely disabling, may result in severe renal failure and
can be fatal. A standard blood test (CK Blood test) may be inadequate in diagnosing it. (34)
- myositis - which involves chronic or persistent
muscle inflammation at the hips, shoulders, one arm, one leg, or even muscles that move the eye. It
may be associated with inflammation in organs such as the joints, intestines, skin, heart or lungs.
There is no cure. This condition can occasionally progress to:
- Rhabdomyloysis -
where the kidney becomes injured due to toxic effect of muscle cell contents. Symptoms include
muscle weakness up to acute kidney failure. (It is this condition that caused the deaths attributed
to Baycol, a statin drug made by Bayer that was pulled off the market after over 50 deaths
worldwide, 31 in the U.S. (35))
- Myalgia - muscle
pain or discomfort.
It is noted that "Patients should be instructed on the importance
of discontinuing the medication and promptly reporting unexpected muscle pain or weakness or dark
discoloration of urine" and that prevention, the best approach, may involve using the lowest
possible statin dose.
According to Beatrice Golomb, some people have
reported "dramatic" increases in blood sugar levels on statins, that stop when the statins are
discontinued. She mentions this is not among the more common adverse effects reported and speculates
that its cause might be the reduction in coenzyme Q10. (36)
One review found statin drugs stimulate cancer growth in
rodents. (37) One statin trial (CARE) found breast cancer in 12
women in the treatment group and only one in the control group while another trial (PROSPER) saw a
"significant increase" in cancer for people ages 70 to 82. (38)
Here is a reference to another study:
[S.] Sinatra also pointed out that an increase
in cancer rates has been observed in those taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. The relationship is
all too clear: When the function of the mitochondria is disrupted, cancerous cells are more likely
to emerge. (39)
So what is this "cholesterol" that
we are trying to lower?
Cholesterol is a substance that is absolutely critical to the
correct functioning and health of the body. It is an alcohol rather than a fat or lipid, although it
does not behave like an alcohol. Insoluble in water (as are lipids or fats), cholesterol is
transported in the body in lipoproteins - these lipoproteins also are carrying fatty acids. The best
known are HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) - which mostly carry cholesterol from the peripheral
tissues to the liver - and LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) - which mostly carry cholesterol in the
opposite direction. About 15 to 20% of our cholesterol is transported by the HDL. (40)
About 80% of the cholesterol our body needs is made in
the liver. If we do not get enough from our diet, the liver will make more cholesterol to
The many functions of cholesterol (41)
Cholesterol is one of the most vital and necessary substances in the body. It is the basis of
several hormones essential to life. Without cholesterol, we would not exist. In fact, it is so
important that every cell of the body (except the brain cells) has the ability to make it. (42) Here are some of its essential functions. Cholesterol is:
- found in the membrane of every cell in our body where it adjusts fluid level and rigidity:
it is necessary for the proper stability and functioning of every cell in our body. Essentially, it
makes cells waterproof and allows them to function.
- the precursor to the sex hormones; it
is our sole source for estrogen, progesterone, and androgen. No cholesterol, no sex hormones, no
- the precursor to the two steroid hormones created in the adrenal glands:
aldosterone (which protects from loss of water and sodium) and cortisol (important for glucose
metabolism and in responding to stress).
- the precursor to calcitrol, which maintains the
proper level of calcium in our body (necessary to prevent osteoporosis, to name only one
- the precursor to vitamin D (vital for bone health and hormone production) and to
the bile salts (necessary for assimilation of fats from the diet).
- needed for proper
function of serotonin receptors in the brain; serotonin is necessary for our well-being and many
anti-depressants seek to increase the serotonin available to us.
- necessary for developing
the synapses (contact sites of adjacent neurons) of the brain; the largest concentration of
cholesterol in the body is in the brain and other parts of the nervous system.
for maintaining the health of the intestinal wall.
- used by the body to repair tears in
tissue; found in high levels in scar tissue and tears in arterial wall.
- an antioxidant
protecting against free radical damage (which may explain why cholesterol levels go up with
Given this incredible number of critically important functions dependant on
cholesterol, does it really make any sense to go in and attempt to interfere with its production?
Cholesterol is needed for the proper functioning of every cell of our
body. Aren't adverse effects from meddling with its production inevitable? When we
mess with something so complex and integral to life there have to be unintended consequences.
One interesting fact is the level of cholesterol in our blood goes up when we are under stress.
This seems to indicate that cholesterol is part of our body's mechanism for dealing with and
mitigating the effects of stress. Its role as an antioxidant seems to indicate another protective
function. If cholesterol is used in protecting the body, wouldn't it naturally occur at the site of
tears in the artery as the cholesterol attempts to repair the tear? As Sally Fallon & Mary Enig
write: "Blaming heart disease on high serum cholesterol levels is like blaming firemen who have come
to put out a fire for starting the blaze." (43)
cholesterol is protective, a raised level would indicate that the body is in need of protecting. Do
we really want to go in and lower something that may be the very thing helping our body to heal?
Dangers of low blood cholesterol
The following conditions have been linked with low
blood cholesterol: (44)
- depression and suicide, as well
as aggressive and violent behavior (45)
- suppression of the immune system
- colon cancer
relationship to Alzheimer's Disease
- increase in strokes
- One study showed that
mortality is higher for women with low cholesterol than for women with high cholesterol." (46)
- Under certain conditions - LDL levels below 130 may
increase the chance of heart disease. (47) In at least one study,
the Framingham study, as reported in 1987, coronary heart disease rates went up as cholesterol
levels went down. (48)
As Dr. Duane Graveline reminds
We can be certain only that we do not yet know the long-term consequences of
artificially lowered serum cholesterol through the use of statin drugs. (49)
Cholesterol and heart disease
Cholesterol not a cause of heart disease?
The standard explanation for heart disease is
that dietary saturated fat and cholesterol lead to raised cholesterol levels in the blood and that
these raised levels cause plaques (atheromas) that block blood vessels leading directly to heart
A growing number of physicians and researchers
question this notion. Under certain circumstances and for certain age groups raised cholesterol is a
risk factor (often a small one) for heart disease - but so are roughly 300 other things (including
being male and high selenium toenail levels). (51) One writer
facetiously suggests that since a deep ear lobe crease is a risk factor for coronary artery disease,
we should probably cut off our ear lobes. (52) It makes as much
sense as lowering cholesterol.
If raised cholesterol is merely a risk factor or marker for
heart disease, removing the risk factor will do nothing about the underlying disease - in order to
successfully treat the disease you must reduce or remove its cause. (53) Reducing cholesterol merely alleviates a symptom and, at the same
time, affects numerous processes in the body that are dependent on cholesterol.
Part of the
conventional strategy to prevent heart attacks is to reduce the intake of foods containing saturated
fats and/or cholesterol in order to lower blood cholesterol. One writer points out the physiological
impossibility of saturated fat (or any fat) turning into cholesterol because chemically they are
unrelated. (For one thing, cholesterol contains nitrogen atoms, which come from protein. (54)) The same author points out the absurdity of saying that eating
cholesterol causes cholesterol to rise: it is like saying that if you eat too much protein your
blood level protein will rise. Many well-known studies absolutely do not support the hypothesis. (55) Another problem is that the majority of the 1,000 mg or so per
day of cholesterol needed by the body is made in the liver and does not come from diet: if there is
not enough in the diet, the liver simply makes more cholesterol.
One of the biggest problems
with the whole standard theory is that people with normal and even low levels of cholesterol die
from coronary heart disease. I think this needs repeating. High cholesterol is said to cause heart
disease but people without high cholesterol die from heart disease. Do you think there is a flaw
somewhere here? (56)
A wealth of physicians and researchers
review all of the literature and point out that there is no real evidence for the theory at the same
time there is evidence to the contrary. (57) Two (of many)
- Multiple Risk Factor Intervention
(MRFIT) did find that annual heart disease deaths were 1 per 1,000 for cholesterol levels of 180 but
rose to a bit less than two deaths per 1,000 for cholesterol levels of 300. This was an actual
increase in rate of less than .1% (although proponents of the cholesterol-heart disease theory will
tell you that it is a 100% increase in risk: they prefer relative risk here to absolute risk because
it strengthens their case). Unfortunately, there was an increase in total deaths for cholesterol
levels below 160. This study involved 362,000 men.
- In 1992, After 44 years of research for
the Framingham Study, there was virtually no difference in heart disease between people with
cholesterol levels of 182 and 244. (A 240% increase in "risk" for coronary heart disease was cited -
this amounted to an absolute risk of .13%). Between cholesterol levels of 244 and 294 the rate of
CHD actually declined. According to Dr. William Castelli, the director of the project:
In Framingham, Massachusetts, the more saturated fat one ate, the more cholesterol one ate, the more
calories one ate, the lower people's serum cholesterol...we found that the people who ate the most
cholesterol, ate the most saturated fat, ate the most calories weighed the least and were the most
But statins reduce deaths from heart attack.
Many doctors and researchers believe that the reduction in mortality from coronary heart disease
(recall the 1 in 71 figure) due to statins does not come from lowering cholesterol - it possibly
comes from an anti-inflammatory effect. (59)
important because it means the drug is doing something it's designers did not intend. When we
interfere with one small mechanism of the incredibly complex human body, especially for a substance
needed by every cell of the body, there almost certainly will be
unintended consequences and effects elsewhere; they are just as likely to be adverse as benign.
Just as with Hormone Replacement Therapy, drug companies have been touting these unanticipated
effects as bonuses in preventing other diseases and as a reason to more widely prescribe statins.
Prudence would seem to dictate that we be extremely careful about taking any drug until
all of its effects are known, accounted for and thoroughly tested. I,
personally, am very uncomfortable with this indication that drug companies are interfering with
something that they don't thoroughly understand and expecting patients to pay them for the privilege
of long-term testing.
What DOES cause heart disease?
Some current thinking &
In considering coronary heart disease, one researcher points out that the real
problem is not "atherosclerosis" - the thickening of the arteries. For the most part, arteries can
safely thicken unless there is a rupture in the artery wall which causes "plaque" (an obstruction)
to develop, causing conditions such as angina. When these plaques break loose, a clot can develop. A
plaque is not enough - you also need the blood clot. It would appear that the usual process leading
to death is damage to the artery wall, development of a plaque causing a blockage and development of
a clot. (60) However, it is also possible for a blood clot to cause
death in the absence of any plaque.
So what causes the plaques to develop and what causes an
increase in the possibility of a blood clot? Some physicians are pointing to "metabolic syndrome" as
the culprit. Metabolic syndrome develops because of abnormal cortisol levels, which leads to insulin
resistance and a number of metabolic abnormalities such as raised sugar levels, low HDL levels and
raised triglycerides. Raised cortisol levels can come about from depression, use of certain drugs
(steroids, for one), and stress. According to one doctor, "It is likely the most common cause of
metabolic syndrome is chronic stress. . ." (61)
causes cortisol to rise. No wonder cholesterol rises under stress: it is a precursor to the
cortisol, its rise an effect, not a cause. Note the irony: how much stress are all of us subjected
to by worrying about our cholesterol levels?
One study found that metabolic syndrome
predicted heart disease independently of the usual risk factors (including high LDL cholesterol
levels). Men with metabolic syndrome had a 76% greater risk of heart attack than those without the
One theory points to the fact that excess
levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood can help cause LDL (low-density lipoproteins) to
adhere to arterial tissue, building up plaques. Deficiencies in vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid can
cause this condition. (63)
Inflammation can also cause
blockages and can cause plaques to rupture, thus provoking a heart attack-causing clot. The vitamins
that may help to reduce heart disease (conclusive proof is said to be lacking) include vitamins A, D
and E (all fat-soluble vitamins) and vitamins C, folic acid, B6 and B12. Deficiencies of certain
minerals may cause heart disease, namely magnesium, selenium, possibly copper and zinc. Other
nutrients that might help are coenzyme Q10 and the Omega-3 essential fatty acids. Note that the best
sources for many of these nutritional substances are meat and saturated fat.
of certain foods might also help cause heart disease: for instance, too much polyunsaturated oil. (64) Sugar might also be a culprit, both by increasing adhesiveness of
blood platelets (making them more prone to clotting) and by increasing blood corticosteroid (a
stress hormone) levels. (65) Sugar may further be implicated
because consuming it in quantity can help cause insulin-resistance; the "carbohydrate theory of
arteriosclerosis" notes that an increase in catabolic hormones (that cause substances to break down
into simpler ones, as opposed to anabolic, which build molecules and tissue) in the bloodstream due
to insulin resistance can damage arteries. There is some evidence that low-carbohydrate diets are
preventative of heart disease. (66)
Possibilities on how to
prevent heart disease
Although these are not currently part of mainstream medical thinking,
here are a number of suggestions from two different articles, one by Malcolm Kendricks and the other
by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, about how to protect yourself from heart disease. (67) Both articles agree on the following:
- Exercise regularly.
- Avoid being overweight.
Both agree that
you should reduce stress, although they word it differently:
- Don't work too hard and do
something you love daily (Fallon/Enig).
- "If you feel 'trapped' in your life, change it"
- Avoid exposure to chemicals, pollutants and pesticides, as much as possible.
Kendrick also stresses:
- You need a good social
Enig and Fallon, focus on nutrition:
- Avoid processed foods,
especially those with sugar, white flour, hydrogenated fats, polyunsaturated vegetable oils or
- Eat high-quality animal products, including seafood, organ meats.
- Eat a
variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, organically grown if possible.
- Eat nutrient dense
foods such as whole dairy products, bone broths, and whole grains, properly prepared to reduce
factors that block mineral absorption.
- "Supplement the diet with foods rich in protective
factors including small amounts of cod liver oil (vitamins A and D); wheat germ oil (vitamin E);
flax oil (omega-3 fatty acids); kelp (iodine); brewers yeast (B vitamins); desiccated liver (vitamin
B12); rose hip or acerola powder (vitamin C); and coconut oil (antimicrobial fatty acids)." (Fallon
Please don't take my word on all this. Go to the
sources in the endnotes or bibliography
and read for yourself.
I think that the current enthusiasm of the
medical world for statin drugs should give all of us pause. The parallels with Hormone Replacement
Therapy are quite clear: in the absence of proof of long-term safety, a drug is widely prescribed to
tens of millions of patients.
Particularly disturbing is the fact that by depleting CoQ10
these drugs interfere with at least one other absolutely critical component of the body's
functioning. Who knows how many others? Yet most doctors appear to be unaware of this potentially
life-threatening adverse effect, as well as the possibility of, for instance, statin-induced global
amnesia or severe polyneuropathy.
Apparently what happened with HRT has not inspired the
institution of fail-safe mechanisms to prevent inadequately tested drugs to be widely
Is there something wrong with our medical system? Pharmaceutical companies know
about the CoQ10 depletion - Merck has a patent on a pill combining statins with CoQ10. In Canada the
precaution statement given with the drug includes a warning about this depletion. (68) How is it possible that our medical system is not set up so that
every doctor in the United States who potentially could prescribe statin drugs knows not only about
the CoQ10 depletion but is fully informed about all other adverse effects? Why don't they know about
the University of British Columbia review that concludes statins have not demonstrated a health
benefit in primary prevention trials? I, personally, am very nervous when I have critical
information about a health issue that physicians lack: they are the professionals and should be
informed. The system apparently lacks mechanisms to insure that physicians are fully informed about
life and death issues such as this.
Physicians are given an incredibly high level of trust in
our culture. One friend taking statins (and experiencing severe adverse effects) read all of the
information on CoQ10 - at which point he knew more about the CoQ10 issue than his original
prescribing physician. Yet it was only weeks afterwards, when a second physician, a neurologist,
told him to take CoQ10, that he actually began taking supplements. Even after what happened with
HRT, people don't seem to question that the same thing might be going on with other drugs, such as
I believe that in a situation if physicians are not being adequately informed, we
must educate ourselves about our medical treatment and challenge doctors to educate themselves.
An increasing number of physicians and researchers are questioning the whole cholesterol theory
of heart disease. (See endnote 57 for a list of reading on this
subject) Surely discovering the incredible role of cholesterol in the body ought to make anyone
question how such a critically important substance could be responsible for the disease that is our
But the minds of most people are closed on this subject: they won't even
consider a look at anything, no matter how well documented, that contradicts the commonly held view.
I guess they figure their physician would tell them if it was wrong; but, physicians don't always
have all the answers, as we have seen with HRT and the overall silence on CoQ10 depletion.
Unfortunately, most doctors, already certain that they do have the answers, don't like to receive
information from outside of a medical system that, as we have seen, is not always right.
Unfortunately, physicians, historically, have been slow to change and quick to ridicule those who
would change. When Dr. Kilmer McCully, a Harvard pathologist, began presenting proof about the
homocysteine theory of heart disease in the early 1970s, he was ridiculed. In 1978 he was dismissed
from the Harvard faculty and released from the hospital where he worked. It took him two years to
find a job - no one would hire such a pariah, who was questioning orthodox medical treatment. How
dare he! When he was finally able to continue his work, he proved his theory. (69) How many lives might have been saved had his work been supported
rather than denigrated?
So what do we do if we think the medical system is wrong? My answer
is to educate myself so my decisions will be informed: ultimately, I have to decide what is best for
my body. I know many people who have begun such a process of education and questioning only after
contracting a serious illness that could not be treated by Western medicine or after suffering an
adverse effect that was unknown to, ignored or belittled by their physicians.
As far as
statin drugs go, I offer no medical advice to anyone else. If my doctor ever suggests that I take
statins , I will make very certain that she has access to all of the information I have and is able
to answer all my questions to my satisfaction.
Article copyright (c)
2003 by Michael Babcock. All rights reserved.
Permission to reproduce with acknowledgment.
(Note: Web links in Endnotes updated 14 November 2010)
Although this was originally written in 2003 I would not change any of the information. Actually, since 2003 there are a large number of new resources and information about the topic. As a starting point, I suggest you go to the website for The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics. I also recommend the following books:
- Good Calories. Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease by Gary Taubes (Alfred A. Knopf, 2007)
- Fat and Cholesterol are Good for You by Uffe Ravnskov (GB Publishing, 2009).
- The Great Cholesterol Con: The Truth About What Really Causes Heart Disease and How to Avoid It by Malcolm Kendrick (John Blake, 2008
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