Statins don’t benefit 80% of takers

In case you don’t know there’s a war going on about statins coinciding with a review by NICE on whether doctors should prescribe them to more people

A letter, signed by independent statin experts and senior medical figures including the President of the Royal College of Physicians, a Past Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners and a professor of emergency medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine New York, has been sent to NICE urging them to ‘withdraw the current guidance on statins for people at low risk of cardiovascular disease until all the data are made available.’ This is because, say the authors: ‘We are concerned that financial conflicts of interest and major commercial bias may have corrupted the database on statins.’

That commercial conflict of interest relates to the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists (CTT) collaboration, a group granted exclusive access to report on raw data compiled by the drug manufacturers (who still harbour most of the data). In their highly touted 2012 report the CTT group concluded that the pills could extend life for everyone who took them, including healthy people at low risk of heart problems.

However, according to an expert group, led by Dr. John Abramson, a teacher of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School, who reanalyzed the CTT data, it actually shows that for all but the very highest-risk people, statins did not save lives and did not reduce the frequency of serious illness.

Dr Rory Collins, who headed the CTT trial, has gone ballistic, pressuring the British Medical Journal to withdraw Abramson’s paper. Why? Because Abramson and colleagues said that 18% of patients got side-effects and stopped the drug. Collins thinks this is a gross inaccuracy and that actually only 9% stopped the drug because of side-effects. That’s his only provable beef – not the lives saved nor the percentage getting side-effects.

But what Collin’s doesn’t come clean about is that, having identified 32,000 people eligible for the statin trials, 12,000 were dumped because they had difficulty tolerating or taking the statin. So they first got rid of those that had side-effects. Add these people in and you have a much higher figure of people stopping statins due to side-effects.

The bottom line is that, unless you already have heart disease, statins won’t save or add years to your life but might well give you side effects.

I once asked a cardiology professor what he thought of statins. “I hate them,” he said, “because they discourage people from addressing the true causes of disease.” Two recent studies have shown exactly that – statin users are more likely to eat more and exercise less than non-statin users.

If you’d like to dig deeper into the controversy over statins professor David Newman has done a very good blog on It’s worth a read.

If you want to find out how to prevent and reverse heart disease without drugs read Say No to Heart Disease.