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Total racket: Drug companies redefine patient 'qualification' for statin drugs to triple sales

Statin drugs

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(NaturalNews) A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association continues the trend of pushing for ever greater numbers of people to be permanently put onto cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, even as research is increasingly showing the drugs to be useless for preventing the negative effects of cardiovascular disease.

Statins block an enzyme necessary for the body to synthesize cholesterol, and have been definitively proven to lower cholesterol levels. Even in the absence of any evidence that the drugs actually improved long-term health outcomes, these short-term results were sufficient for the medical industry to wholeheartedly embrace statins as a miracle drug and start pushing them on ever-increasing numbers of people. Statins are among the top selling drugs in the world.

In 2013, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association released new guidelines for cholesterol management that lowered the threshold for statin use. Under the new guidelines, 49 percent - essentially half - of all U.S. residents between the ages of 40 and 75 should be taking the drugs. That's 56 million people in the United States alone.

New recommendations would triple the number on statins

In the new study, conducted by researchers from Boston University, Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, North Shore University, and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the authors note that it has not previously been tested whether the 2013 statin guidelines are better at identifying people at high risk of cardiovascular disease than the earlier (2004) guidelines.

The researchers evaluated more than 2,400 participants from the second- and third-generation cohorts of the ongoing Framingham Heart Study for statin eligibility under both guidelines. They found that while only 14 percent of participants qualified under the 2004 guidelines, nearly three times as many - 39 percent - qualified under the 2013 rules.

Participants were screened for coronary artery calcification, a heart disease risk factor, between 2002 and 2005 and were then followed for an average of 9.4 years. The researchers found that the 2013 guidelines were indeed more effective at predicting risk of cardiovascular disease events and subclinical coronary artery disease than the 2004 guidelines.

While the study will certainly be taken by the medical establishment as support for the new guidelines, there is one very important question it doesn't ask: Does giving that extra 25 percent of people statins actually improve their long-term health outcomes?

Increasingly, the body of evidence is pointing to "no."

Statin benefits based on "statistical deception"

The Achilles heel of the statin consensus is that there's actually no evidence that high cholesterol levels cause heart disease. Instead, research is increasingly suggesting that high cholesterol is probably a marker of underlying problems. In that case, lowering it would not necessarily help anything.

And indeed, that's what seems to be the case. In an article published earlier this year in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers reviewed the body of evidence on the safety and effectiveness of statins. They concluded that statins have "failed to substantially improve cardiovascular outcomes," and that their supposed effectiveness is based on "statistical deception."

For example, their independent analysis of two major statin trials found only a 1 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease among those taking the drugs, even though the studies had been promoted as showing a 36 to 54 percent risk reduction.

The researchers also found that media reports and medical literature have consistently downplayed the very real risks of statins.

"Increased rates of cancer, cataracts, diabetes, cognitive impairments and musculoskeletal disorders more than offset the modest cardiovascular benefits of statin treatment," the researchers wrote.






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