Heart & Cardiovascular Health

Statins – the dangerous side effects of cholesterol lowering medication

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Those of you who have read my other article on cholesterol lowering drugs known as ‘statins’ will realise that I have a dim view of their supposed benefits. However, I did not include in that article research suggesting that rather than simply being of absolutely minimal benefit, they may well be causing more harm than good.

A brief list of facts about statins:

Fact 1 – As reported on 3 News, in 2010 there were around 1.5 million statin prescriptions in NZ. That’s the equivalent of approximately 300,000 Kiwis routinely taking these drugs.

Fact 2 – Bloomberg Business Week reported that the biggest selling statins prevented heart attacks in just one per cent of the patients prescribed it (over the three and a third years of the trial). Put another way; 99% of people who took statins received no benefit.

Fact 3– Research suggests that statins are of no benefit to those who have not had an initial heart attack

Fact 4 – Statins increase the risk of diabetes in post-menopausal women.

Fact 5 – Other side effects of statins include; muscle damage, muscle cramps, muscle weakness, exercise intolerance, sexual dysfunction, as well as liver and nerve damage in approximately 10-15 percent of patients.

A Cochrane Group study of statin research concluded that they don’t reduce overall chance of death. So, this begs the obvious question; if taking the drugs doesn’t reduce your chance of dying, but use of the drug exposes you to a wide range of side effects, not to mention the huge cost to the tax payer, why exactly are they being prescribed?

Let’s give the drug companies who manufacture these drugs the benefit of the doubt for a moment, and assume that they stop heart attacks in one per cent of patients, as claimed in their own newspaper ads. This leads to a couple of interesting scenarios at the doctor’s office.

Imagine, you are overweight and you go to your doctor. Your GP gives you the obligatory cholesterol test, from which it is found that you have high cholesterol. Your GP then says to you “I am going to put you on this statin drug to lower your cholesterol”.  In all likelihood you will take the drug without asking any further questions, as 300,000 kiwis already have.

However, let’s imagine a second scenario; your GP says to you “You have high cholesterol, and that means that statistically you have a higher chance of having a heart attack” Your GP then says “I can prescribe you a statin drug to lower your cholesterol, but I really have to tell you, at best it will stop a heart attack in just one person in every hundred I prescribe it to, and I should also mention that the side effects include numerous muscle issues, feeling lethargic and also, a significant increase in your chance of getting diabetes.”

Would you take the Statins?

I think that unless you were in an extreme high risk group, you would be making a very unwise decision. My concern with these drugs is that they have many side effects and research as to their benefits is dubious at best. Rather than prescribe them only to people who are in the highest risk group (those who have already had one heart attack, as well as other risk factors), they are prescribed to virtually everyone who fits just one of several criteria. There are even doctors who want them included in food products, sold over the counter, and routinely prescribed to children.

The best advice doctors should be offering to people they feel are at risk of heart attacks is to lose weight, move more, stop smoking, and drink less. At the very least, GP’s should be advising people of the risks versus the benefits of statins.
There are other options for heart health that involve diet. Eating oily fish twice per week, i.e. salmon or tuna is a great start. Oily fish contain high concentrations of Omega-3 fatty acids that are proven to assist with numerous factors associated with heart health, including blood pressure and cholesterol, along with a host of other benefits (brain, eye, joints and anti-inflammatory activity).

In the absence of a diet rich in Omega-3’s, then supplements are definitely a great alternative. Omega-3’s are amongst the most researched of all supplements, to date there have been over 17,000 independent studies. Our new formula Lester’s Oil contains both high concentration Omega-3 fish oil and Co-Q10 for heart health.

Another dangerous side effect of statins, and certain blood pressure lowering drugs is that they have long been known to reduce your Co-Enzyme Q10 (Co-Q10) levels. Co-Q10 is a vitamin-like substance found mainly in the mitochondria (energy factories) of our cells. It is particularly concentrated in our hearts, kidneys, and liver.  Interestingly, there are reports which link Parkinson’s disease to the use of statins, however the jury is still out on this, but it should be noted that there are human trials underway using high doses of Co-Q10 to alleviate the symptoms.

As with many of our articles, they are designed to inform, and to help you ask the right questions of your doctor. Before you stop using any medication, always speak to your doctor first.

17 Comments

  1. Hi ,I had a very bad stroke 5yrs ago and been on statins eversince, I discussed the statin problem with my doctor ,he said that in my case, post stroke event that statins are benificial. what is your view on this?

  2. Helen Pilkington Reply

    I have been advised to have grapefruit every day which will lower my cholestrol not that it is high but it is a known
    fact that people who have grapefruit do not have high cholestrol; but if you are on cholestrol lowering medication you can not have grapefruit;
    interresting isnt it;

  3. I respect your view point where you are coming from, but just as drug companies are in the business to sell their products are you not in the same boat?

    Personally I have serious doubts about the dangers and usefulness of statins and is in part one of the reason I take Lesters Oil.

    However I want to see independant resarch results that I can raed so as to from my on conclusions.

    Would you please be so kind as to point me in the direction where I can find such information?

    • John Railton Reply

      Here are a couple books with evidence showing the flaws in prescribing statins to most people: ‘The Great Cholesterol Myth’ by J Bowdon and S Sinatra (copy in Auckland Libraries) and ‘Fat and Cholesterol are good for You’ by Uffe Ravnskov

  4. Tina Williams Reply

    Same as with coconut oil, the statistics early in my growing years were awful. Heart attacks were imminent if you used it! Now they are touting it as a miracle. Who can you believe?

  5. Lloyd Derbyshire Reply

    Personally I would advise replacing your statin with an apple a day.

    Reference: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25413939

    “If everyone over the age of 50 ate an apple a day, 8,500 deaths from heart attacks and strokes could be avoided every year in the UK, say researchers”

    Like Lester’s Oil there are no contraindications 😉

  6. Les THOMSON` Reply

    I have taken statins for a number of years and suffered joint pain and lack of energy. I stopped them 6 month ago and have been taking Lesters oil for the past year. Since stopping the statins I feel I have more energy and less pain. You article appears to hit the use of statins on the head and fully agree with it but cardiologists still promote its use.

  7. I found your article rather interesting and can relate to the dangerous side effects of statins as I personally experienced serious side effects from using the drug Lipitor.

    I had great result using the drug and my cholesterol level was down to 3.2 down from 7.1 after only three months of using Lipitor. My good cholesterol was already reasonably high.

    My body started to ache and I found it difficult to walk as I was in a lot of pain. I began suffering from memory loss and my urine had changed colour. I began feeling very unwell. After a blood test it was revealed that my muscle enzyme was way off the graph, There was significant changes in my inflammatory markers and my liver and kidneys were rather compromised. Within a few weeks of stopping the meds most of my symptons disappeared although it took months for my muscles to settle down. However I still have periods of muscles aches.

    I take Res-v Ultimate and have a diet high in Omega3 and 6 (from food and oil capsules). The cost of Lester’s oil is just too expensive for me to use everyday.

  8. I am on statin medication and have been considering lately of going without
    it in preference to taking res v ultimate,lester’s oil and magnesium which i have been taking for some time now and can recommend for value. However, my doctor advises me not to cease medication all-together which leaves me between a rock and a hard place as my cholesterol level was previously very high and caused by liver function rather than diet and may not be corrected by alternative suppliments only.(PS:Good article,but needs more information)

  9. maureen bickerton Reply

    I take statins and although aware of the side effects my hdl was 6.8 and after taking statins it dropped to 3.5 and my ldl had a significant rise. So I feel it prudent to continue to take the statins.

  10. Jim Antill Reply

    The previous respondents seem generally aligned with my own view. I always try to read independent, unbiased, peer-reviewed research rather than statements from businesses with a barrow to push.

    If that sounds a bit too cynical it really isn’t meant to be rude, just cautious. That said, i have been taking statin for several years, have had a couple of minor MIs and am having trouble with weakening and cramps so your remarks about those risks caught my attention! Like the others, I’d like to see a reference to genuine research on this aspect.

    For the record, I can’t afford products like resveratrol etc. anyway, so that is not an option.

    Cheers – Jim

  11. I have become very sceptical of all these so called scientific research. WHY?
    1.Growing up in Malaysia in the 70s, we were told that the earthworm was the enemy of the farmers as it turned the soil acidic. Now we have people going gaga over earthworm farms.
    2.In the 80s while still in Malaysia, we were told that there was a hole in the OZONE layer over Australia and the world was going to end. I wonder who put a BAND-AID and taped up that hole.
    3.Then I moved to live in Australia in the early 90s. Heaven forbid anyone mentioning the word BUTTER or EGGS- both were villified for their blah-blah-blah. Now both these ingredients are used generously in cooking shows.
    4. Recall all those diet fads- no carbs after such and such a time. Only fruits etc. Only protiens etc.
    4.Remember how the poor coconut was villified as having all sorts of “evil” fats. Come 2014 and it is a superfood- coconut butter, coconut water, coconut flesh, coconut oil being good for dementia Alzhiemers etc.
    I believe that we have to take things in moderation and in balance for a balanced life. The western world is being swamped with allergies because we try to live sterile lives eating “stuff” out of packets and cans- I remember watching a documentary which showed chlorine being used to process (cleanse) burger meat. A BIT OF COMMONSENSE WILL PRODUCE GENERAL WELL BEING- follow the celebrities and chicken licken experts and you will be in a confused state as most of them will say anything for the dollar.

  12. heather barker Reply

    My husband was put on a statin 11 years ago only due to family history as he had no other risk factors. Seven weeks later he went into renal failure, had a stroke and almost died. This was due to the statin breaking down the muscle tissue called rhabdomyolysis. More than 11 years later he has ongoing pains throughout most of his body as the muscle cells never fully recovered. He is fatigued to the extent he needs to sleep for a few hours every afternoon, every day. Cognitively it has affected his ability to work and he was medically retired in his 50s. ACC accepted the claim as being ‘rare’ but we have since learnt that over 21 people have died from statins in New Zealand and thousands have reported adverse reactions. And they are just the reported incidents. I would recommend anyone considering lowering their cholesterol to check the facts. Lowering cholesterol in my opinion will not stop a heart attack or stroke. Neither will it give you a better quality of life. Check out the RISK website about adverse effects or Stopped Our Statins. Heather Barker

  13. Denny Zame Reply

    my cholesterol unchecked runs at 12 I tried taking 4 Lesters oil per day and stopped my drugs un fortunately my cholesterol climbed back to unacceptable
    limits so I had to resume the drugs any suggestions?

  14. Joe Palmer Reply

    I have been taking Lester’s Oil now for about 6 months, I heard of its benefits thru Leighton Smith on Newstalk ZB. I must say that I feel great since taking this product.
    I have never been one to take drugs of any kind throughout my whole life, I’m now 72 & still very active, work every day, do all my own lawns, gardens, maintainence on my home, etc etc. Years ago I was prescribed Hytrin to treat my Prostate, this drug made me dizzy & lethargic so I stopped taking it much to the disgust of my Dr, I have been taking herbal remedies ie: Saw Pallmeto, Zinc, Tribulus, turmeric, plus a Grape seed extract as an antioxidant, I have no problems at all with my water-works.
    I am convinced that chemical drugs are no substitute for a healthy diet, the right supplements. Last year I had a growth on my arm, the Dr said it was a form of Cancer & it would have to be surgically removed, 2months down the track it has all but disappeared, I have used Colliodal Silver Gel only, I also use this product on any skin problems I have with amazing results.
    I say the Medical Proffession is out of control with drugs. Happy Days

  15. Lynda Gulbransen Reply

    My Mother has been on Lipitor for almost 25years Yes it shows on the Lab report it has lowered the Cholesterol but if it is meant to reduce the plaque then WHY has she had to have vascular bypass surgery Its disgusting that we are the pharmaceutical companies Guinea pigs

  16. Would be very interested to see some peer reviewed scientific research papers listed confirming this.

    I’ve mentioned this to my cardiologist and he was of the opinion that they seemed to have a lot of benefit to most patients. I have been told of various studies but can’t find the references for them to refute his comments.

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