Thursday, January 17, 2008

Lowering Cholesterol: A $40 BIllion a Year Boondoggle

I have been suspicious of cholesterol-lowering drugs for years now. My doctor keeps trying to prescribe them to me because my cholesterol numbers are less than 1% higher than what is considered "normal". Years ago I read a story on the internet (which I cannot find despite many google searches today) about how a pharmaceutical industry representative was behind the lowering of the acceptable high total cholesterol number from 250 to 200, and as a result cholesterol-lowering pharmaceutical drugs became an $8 billion a year industry. But I am behind the times. According to this article in the New York Times, cholesterol-lowering drugs are now an astounding $40 billion a year industry. And there is very little scientific evidence that lower cholesterol actually leads to improved cardiac health.

And that doesn't even get into the "side effects" of these drugs, a side effect being a direct effect of the drug that isn't the one the doctors are looking for. Memory loss and muscle wasting aren't things I want to cause myself. This article has a good summary of the anti-statin-drug arguments.

I'm sticking with whole foods and no drugs.

Share the Wealth: Bad News About Statins

NYTimes: New Questions on Treating Cholesterol

For decades, the theory that lowering cholesterol is always beneficial has been a core principle of cardiology. It has been accepted by doctors and used by drug makers to win quick approval for new medicines to reduce cholesterol.

But now some prominent cardiologists say the results of two recent clinical trials have raised serious questions about that theory — and the value of two widely used cholesterol-lowering medicines, Zetia and its sister drug, Vytorin. Other new cholesterol-fighting drugs, including one that Merck hopes to begin selling this year, may also require closer scrutiny, they say.

“The idea that you’re just going to lower LDL and people are going to get better, that’s too simplistic, much too simplistic,”
said Dr. Eric J. Topol, a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla, Calif. LDL, or low-density lipoprotein, is the so-called bad cholesterol, in contrast to high-density lipoprotein, or HDL.

For patients and drug companies, the stakes are enormous. Led by best sellers like Lipitor from Pfizer, cholesterol-lowering medicines, taken by tens of millions of patients daily, are the largest drug category worldwide, with annual sales of $40 billion.

No comments: