(NaturalNews) Mainstream medicine has been calling for more and more people to be placed on "miracle" drugs known as statins that lower cholesterol. There have even been suggestions that statins should be sold over the counter or given out free when people buy junk, fat-loaded fast food (http://www.naturalnews.com/029467_statin_drugs_fast_food.html). After all, the rationale goes, by lowering cholesterol, arteries won't clog and heart attacks and strokes can be prevented.
And now there's a third reason not to jump on Big Pharma's money making band wagon known as statin therapy. Johns Hopkins research just presented November 16th at the American Heart Association's (AHA) annual Scientific Sessions in Chicago, gives clear evidence these drugs are over-prescribed. In fact, pushing these drugs as "preventive therapy" for future heart attacks in healthy men and women who don't already have artery clogging calcium deposits is just plain bad medicine.
The new findings are from the Johns Hopkins-led Multi-Ethnic Study on Atherosclerosis, or MESA. The research was designed to be the first to pinpoint exactly who among the more than 6 million healthy American adults with normal blood cholesterol levels should be candidates for so-called preventive statin therapy.
According to results of the JUPITER trial (short for the Justification for the Use of Statins in Primary Prevention: An Interventional Tool Evaluating Rosuvastin) published in 2008, the statin drug rosuvastatin (sold and widely advertised on television as Crestor), was effective in preventing heart attack and stroke in some individuals, all of whom had high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). But when the Johns Hopkins team checked these findings with a new investigation -- they came up with a dramatically different conclusion.
They selected MESA study participants, who met the same criteria used for the JUPITER study, from a pool of 7,000 ethnically diverse adults, including African Americans, Chinese Americans, Caucasians and Hispanics. All the 950 volunteers were monitored at Johns Hopkins and five other medical centers in North America.
The results showed that only the people with measurable buildup of artery-hardening calcium in their blood vessels had a high rate of heart emergencies over the course of the six year study. But almost half of the study participants had no detectable levels of calcium in their blood vessels and those people had a very low rate (about 5 percent ) of heart-disease related events -- meaning that taking daily statin drugs as a "preventive measure" wouldn't have offered any coronary protection. But taking the drugs would have exposed them to potentially serious side effects.
So, despite all the cholesterol measuring near-hysteria of past decades, the Johns Hopkins researchers are now calling for an emphasis on measuring coronary artery calcium deposits to find out who is really at risk of suffering a heart attack "It certainly is not the case that all adults should be taking it (statin therapy) to prevent heart attack and stroke, because half are at negligible risk of a sudden coronary event in the next five to 10 years," lead investigator Michael Blaha, M.D., a cardiology fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and its Heart and Vascular Institute, said in a media statement.
And remember all the media hype claiming that high levels of CRP in the blood are predictive of a future heart attack? Participants in the Johns Hopkins study were found to have varying blood levels of the inflammatory byproduct, which has been called a predictor of all kinds of coronary disease. But it turns out, according to the new research, that's not true either. In fact, an elevated CRP score at or above 2 milligrams per liter offered no predictive value after established risk factors were taken into account, including age, gender, ethnicity, hypertension, blood cholesterol levels, obesity, diabetes, smoking and a family history of heart disease.
Bottom line: the new statistical comparison of results showed that few if any heart attacks or strokes would have been prevented within five years had anyone in the study taken statin drugs, unless there was already some calcium buildup in their blood vessels. But even in people with moderate calcium buildup, only one heart attack would have been averted in every 94 people treated, and one stroke in every 54.
"Statin therapy should not be approached like diet and exercise as a broadly based solution for preventing coronary heart disease. These are lifelong medications with potential, although rare side effects, and physicians should only consider their use for those patients at greatest risk, especially those with high coronary calcium scores," study co-investigator and cardiologist Roger Blumenthal, M.D., a professor and director of the Ciccarone Preventive Cardiology Center at Johns Hopkins, emphasized in a press statement.
He also pointed out that as many as 5 percent of people on statins develop serious side effects, such as muscle pain. In addition, one in 255 will develop diabetes because of the drugs.
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