Recently revised cholesterol-lowering guidelines constitute a major risk to public health according to The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics, a non-profit organization of doctors, scientists and researchers. The new guidelines, aimed at even more aggressive cholesterol lowering will result in millions more people being placed on statins.
THINCS' members are deeply disturbed by the ever-increasing pressure to lower blood cholesterol levels, and the underlying commercial interests that have distorted scientific research in this area. THINCS warns that statins have been excessively 'hyped' by the pharmaceutical industry and medical opinion leaders who have, unfortunately, become little more than paid advertorials.
"These drugs have been shown to produce an alarming array of side effects," states Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD, THINCS Chairman. "Furthermore, the public and medical profession do not realize that statins only benefit a small and select portion of the population."
Ravnskov and his colleagues worldwide point out that in the elderly, in women of all ages and in men without heart disease, cholesterol-lowering measures have not prevented a single death in any trial. Even in the highest male risk groups for heart disease, statin treatment resulted in 0.5 % fewer deaths per year only, and this small benefit was found in the most positive of all trials. Other major statin trials, e.g. ALLHAT showed no benefit at all, a fact that has been effectively buried.
Even a small effect would of course be worthwhile provided that the treatment was free from side effects. However, data gathered by the THINCS group show that statin drugs cause cancer both in animals and in human beings. Other side effects include liver damage, nerve damage, cognitive decline, and memory loss, and statin use during pregnancy may lead to more serious malformations than were seen after exposure to thalidomide.
Best known is muscle damage. In severe cases this causes kidney failure which has claimed the lives of several hundred people thus far, and resulted in one of the worst offending statins (cerivastatin) being withdrawn from the market.
Cardiologist Peter Langsjoen notes that statin treatment may lead to heart muscle weakening and heart failure. "It occurs because statin drugs block the production of coenzyme Q10, vital for the production of cell energy" says Langsjoen. "Evidence sent to the FDA shows marked reduction of coQ10 in patients on statin drugs."
All of these side-effects have been seen at relatively low doses. New recommendations are to use increasingly high doses, and THINCS warn that this will result in even more complications of treatment up to, and including, death. Yet "to lower cholesterol even more is like chasing windmills", says Ravnskov, "because any alleged benefits from statins has nothing to do with lowering LDL or cholesterol."
"Statin drugs have been aggressively promoted by the pharmaceutical industry and medical opinion leaders," says THINCS member Paul Rosch, MD, President of the American Institute of Stress. "The new guidelines were not written by disinterested scientists, but by members of the medical community who have received major grants from the pharmaceutical industry. The recommendations are based on distorted statistical analysis of relative risk reduction that mislead doctors and the public. They are designed to turn healthy people into patients."