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Studies support broader use of cholesterol-lowering statins

July 16, 2015

About the Author

photo of Julie Corliss

Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Julie Corliss is the executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter. Before working at Harvard, she was a medical writer and editor at HealthNews, a consumer newsletter affiliated with The New England Journal of Medicine. She … See Full Bio
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September 4, 2015

Statins may be fine for some people but not for me. They caused myopathy and pain. My legs became so weak that I could barely make it up a flight of stairs. This was after lowering my LDL to 59 with high dose Statins. Cramps would wake me in the middle of the night so I was getting only 4 to 5 hours of sleep each night. CoQ10 600mg daily did not help. With my primaries physicians ok, I stopped the Statins. My CPK was 477 at point. The pains and myopathy slowly eased. After 4 months I am almost back to normal. Studies I have read say that this condition can effect 30% of people who take the higher dose Statins. I have become a vegetarian. I am 73 and work out aerobically for 50 minutes daily and have for many years. My HDL is usually in the 50’s. I hope the diet can get my LDL down 20% which will get my ratio down to where it ought to be.

Rajesh Bhatia
August 5, 2015

Nice blog. For more health tips visit justforhearts(dot)org.

July 19, 2015

Just a question . Why are there just one set of guidelines a piece in the NYT ” A New Women’s Issue: Statins ” May 5, 2014 notes…..But the recommendations don’t distinguish patients by gender, and a small, increasingly vocal group of cardiologists believe that’s a mistake.

Far too many healthy women are taking statins, they say, though some research indicates the drugs will do them little good and may be more likely to cause serious side effects in women.

“If you’re going to tell a healthy person to take a medicine every day for the rest of their life, you should have really good data that it’s going to make them better off,” said Dr. Rita Redberg, “……..Looking at the JUPITER trail the piece notes “….But the absolute number of these health setbacks was small, and there was no significant reduction in heart attacks, strokes and deaths among these women. “

July 18, 2015

The article is very misleading is that while it does mention the use of quality-adjusted life year gained, it uses the word “savings” in the same paragraph whereby confusing cost-effectiveness with cost savings. Newsflash – a measure can be cost effective i.e. the cost of QALY gained could be lower certain amount (in this case 100,000), and it doesn’t mean it is cost saving. There are many measures that are cost-effective but not cost-saving. The study was about cost-effectiveness, it didn’t say anything about cost saving.

Bob Brand
July 18, 2015

Why don’t the studies check such things as triglyceride levels. I believe that high cholesterol HDL or LDL isn’t a problem unless the cholesterol becomes inflamed. Sugar and refined carbs are what inflames the cholesterol. I would love to see a study of people who eliminate sugar from their diets and their rate of heart attacks. All cholesterol is necessary for maximal functioning of the body unless the cholesterol becomes becomes (sugar) inflamed.

July 18, 2015

It’s good to see people here who are skeptical of the findings.

[And when they looked at the people who weren’t eligible for a statin under the new guidelines, just 1% had a heart attack or stroke. Under the old ones, 2.4% did.]

In other words, for a 1.4% possible change (which could simply be a rounding error), the medical community wants to put 2/3-rds of adults between 40 and 75 on statins.

This is another blatant example of the corrupt absurdity/profitability of the statin industry.

July 18, 2015

I question ” In fact, the model predicted that lowering the threshold for prescribing statins down from a 7.5% 10-year risk to a 3% 10-year risk would save even more money. ” Does that include the cost of treating the new cases of diabetes [naturally with the newest most expensive agent} and unfortunately many may increase risk. Muscle pain just take an NSAID….. did not the FDA just strengthen the warning of risk? Models are only accurate if they include all possibilities .

July 18, 2015

You are asking a great question, I wanted to ask it too. I also want to point out that a lot of people confuse cost effectiveness with cost savings. When studies like this talk about cost effectiveness they mean that the cost of Quality-Adjusted Life Year gained is under certain amount, if you read the actual study they used $100,000. This isn’t the same as cost savings, so there are no money saved there.

Robert R. Griffith
July 18, 2015

i love your word of “That means eating a healthier diet, getting regular exercise, and not smoking”. Important is do the medical check yearly to prevent everything.

July 17, 2015

Funded by drug companies ? The problem with all these studies are these genuinely independent . All findings should reveal their funding.

July 17, 2015

I think all of the Harvard study group are already on statin and they are having cognitive side effects of the medication

July 16, 2015

I am interested in your response to vince’s comments.

July 16, 2015


Marshall S. Smith
July 16, 2015

My wife and I are both over 75. Do the studies say anything about whether we should be taking a statin?

July 18, 2015

People’s cholesterol tend to go up with age. That’s a good thing b/c cholesterol is vital to brain function and sex hormone production.

Statin drugs have been linked to impaired mental function including senility and Alzheimer.

The only thing that statin drugs have been shown to do is lower LDL-C. LDL-C is not even a major risk factor in heart disease. The HDL-C to triglyceride ration is a far better indicator of heart health.

There are several books out there that show statin drugs to be incredibly harmful with suspect beneficial effects.

These two studies are seriously flawed. Do some research before letting a doctor prescribe a statin drug for you or your wife.

July 16, 2015

Having a discussion with your doctor has become something of a cliche when the validity of scientific data are being defined by the patient’s idiosyncrasies. In addition, how many doctors have time for an in depth and therefore time-consuming discussion about highly contested research data?

July 17, 2015

Or whether you doctor is being paid t o supply certain drugs ?

July 18, 2015

Unless you are ill and come to doctor to diagnose something, be prepared, read studies yourself, just read reputable pages not vitamin-sellers or conspiracy theories and make up your mind about what you want to do and which questions you want to ask. Also, learn basic concepts like the difference between absolute and relative risk, numbers needed to screen, numbers needed to treat, your own risk. For all of these “primary prevention” measures, the probability you benefit is fairly small. It’s up to you not your doctor to decide if it’s worth it.
Now, my 10-year risk of heart attack is way below the guidelines, so for me the decision is obvious. Even if my LDL had been 191 (it’s actually 155 now), my 10-year risk would have been only 2% (and no, I am not young, I am post-menopausal woman in my 50s), so if the doctor were to try to prescribe me statins, I’d simply say: my 10-year risk is 2%. If I take statins the probability I’ll benefit in 10 years is about half a percentage point. This is much lower than the risk of side effects.

Now, if your risk is higher, it’s still your decision. The doctor can tell you guidelines, up to you to decide. I don’t know what I’d decide if my risk had been higher. But it’s your body, your choice.

July 16, 2015

A basic read when looking at any data is was there a mortality benefit? Here again no mention is made of a mortality benefit. why.? Also the adverse reactions to statins including diabetes are not mentioned.Soon after the new guidelines where announced an op ed appeared in the NYT ” by JOHN D. ABRAMSON and RITA F. REDBERGNOV. 13, 2013 “Don’t Give more patients statins” which notes “…. According to our calculations, it will increase the number of healthy people for whom statins are recommended by nearly 70 percent.

This may sound like good news for patients, and it would be — if statins actually offered meaningful protection from our No. 1 killer, heart disease; if they helped people live longer or better; and if they had minimal adverse side effects. However, none of these are the case…”

So are you just adding side effects and changing the cause but not the date of death?

Kishan Vasekar
July 17, 2015

True.All the studies on statins never clarify
1.Interaction and correlation with other medicines being taken by heart patient.
2 If simple life style changes can help prevent heart disease , why you need statins for healthy people?
3 Vit D levels drop if cholesterol levels are reduced causing depression , more so in US where sunlight is rare.
There are so many other ways to fight cholesterol and in fact it is hardly that villain.
Best is all doctors in USA should take Statins for 3 years and then tell the truth.thanks

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