Are Americans overdosing on cholesterol lowering statins?

A San Diego researcher has brought up the issue of Americans' use of cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Eric Topol, Chief Academic Officer for Scripps Health and cardiologist, wrote an ‘op-ed’ in the New York Times Opinion Page addressing the risk of cholesterol-reducing statins such as Lipitor, Zocor and Crestor.

In a recent Food and Drug Administration announcement it was noted that higher the doses of these drugs, the higher the risk of inducing diabetes and even memory loss said Topol.

But while the FDA said the risk is small, Topol wrote that the magnitude of the problem “has become much more apparent.” The reason for the reduced alarm from FDA, he wrote, was because there were some lower-dose statins tested along with the high-dose statins in the FDA's study - lowering the average risk of getting diabetes to about one in every 255 patients. There isn't enough data, he said, to say exactly how much of the drug is too much, it's enough that diabetes showed up to begin with. “More than 20 million Americans take statins. That would equate to 100,000 new statin-induced diabetics,” Topol wrote.

He said, “There are 3 drugs implicated - Simvastatin at a dose of 40 mg or more, and Lipitor and Crestor. The precise doses of risk with these 2 drugs is not established. But the higher the dose of the drugs, the increased the risk. For example, with Lipitor at 80 mg the risk jumped up to 1 of every 50 people taking the drug as this dose.”

He added that, “each individual has to have a careful assessment of the benefit and risk - there is not a pat answer! Important to point out that those who have heart disease will derive an important benefit from statins.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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