And so it begins:
‘ …..a Pfizer rep confirmed to me that they were now telling all GP’s that statins do have side-effects and shouldn’t be prescribed anymore but to prescribe the new post-statin drugs…………. how two-faced can you get!!!!’
This was in an e-mail from a friend and supporter of mine, who has close contacts with the pharmaceutical industry.
Well, if you are going to challenge the dominant position of statins, the first thing that you have to do is to attack them. What is the best line of attack? Go after their greatest weakness, which is that they cause serious adverse effects, and damage the quality of life of many people. Something I have been saying for a long, long, time.
For years the experts have informed us that this is utter rubbish, statins are wonder-drugs, and adverse effect free. All of a sudden, now that the pharmaceutical industry is about to launch new cholesterol lowering agents, we are suddenly going to find that, why, after all, statins do cause a whole range of nasty adverse effects.
If you want to see exactly how this is going to be done, watch this discussion on Medscape. The Medscape site needs a password, however you can get one fairly simply. In this ‘educational’ discussion we see three professors talking about the new cholesterol lowering agents that are soon to arrive. The dreaded PCSK9-inhibitors.
The names of these three professors are Prof Christie Ballantyne, Prof Stephen Nicholls and – yes, you guessed it – Prof Steven Nissen. Is there a new cardiovascular drug in development that he does not get involved with?
The first part of the discussion focusses entirely on the terrible problem of people being statin intolerant; people being unable to take high doses of statins, and the high burden of adverse-effects from statins.
A slide is shown from the PRIMO observational study showing that 15% of people taking atorvastatin have significant adverse effects, and 20% of those taking simvastatin suffer significant adverse effects. These, of course, are the two statins with by far the greatest market share. My, what a coincidence.
The discussion then opens out into the worrying problems with statins causing both diabetes and cognitive dysfunction (something vehemently denied for many, many years). Ballantyne was particularly eloquent on these issues.
The entire tone is one more of sorrow than anger. ‘Statins….great drugs….hate to see them go, but you know, their time is passing.’ Professor wipes a small tear from his eye at the thought.
I watch this stuff with a kind of morbid fascination. The marketing game is on, billions are about to be spent pushing PCSK9-inhibitors. The Key Opinion Leaders who tirelessly promoted the wonders of statins, and who told us that they were virtually side-effect free, are now singing a completely different tune.
Here is what one the panellists Prof Christie Ballantyne had to say about statin adverse effects in his book ‘Dyslipidemia & Atherosclerosis Essentials 2009’. This can be found on page 91, under the heading Adverse Effects and Monitoring.
‘Statins are very well tolerated with infrequent and reversible adverse effects. In large placebo controlled studies the frequency of adverse effects was similar to placebo (2-3%).’
Here, however, is what he said in March 2013
“Some people have hereditary disorders and have extremely high LDLs. And so the statin has some efficacy but not enough to get them down as low as they’d like. Then some people have less response than others, and we don’t understand all of that. Some of that may be genetic. And it turns out there’s an even probably larger group of people that have a hard time taking a high dose of a statin.”
Even though statins are safe for most people, there are those that can’t take them because they experience side effects.
“Many people complain of some muscle pain, soreness, weakness, excessive fatigability. There’s some slight increase in diabetes also. That can occur with high dose statins, and some people [who] say that they may have problems with their nerves or cognition.”1
Well, that is all nice and consistent. Finally, here he is on Sunday 8th Dec, quoted as part of a discussion on the new AHA/ACC guidelines.
“Clearly, the focus is to get people on statins,” said Dr. Christie Mitchell Ballantyne, the chief of cardiology and cardiovascular research at Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston. “But if someone has seen four doctors and tried six statins and tells me they can’t take them, what am I going to do? Tell them they are a failure?”
Ballantyne said he would give such patients a non-statin drug, despite the guidelines.’2
….Ballantyne said he would give such patients a non-statin drug, despite the guidelines.’ I wonder what he could possibly mean by this. Perhaps George Orwell had it right.
‘Four legs good, two legs bad’……becomes….’Four legs good, two legs better.’
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
[A farewell to statins – Part three will arrive at some point.]
P.S. Please watch the video clip soon, as I suspect it may not last very long after this blog.