The Heart Pill Debate
Reported December 19, 2011
CLEVELAND, OH (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A landmark study has changed how some
cardiologists view a popular drug used to lower bad cholesterol. Some are now
prescribing it to patients with normal cholesterol, but some doctors think it
might do more harm than good.
Portia Tibbs is taking steps to help control her cholesterol. She is also taking
cholesterol lowering statins just like millions of other people.
“I don’t really like taking medicine, but I have to,” Portia Tibbs told Ivanhoe.
Now because of the so-called Jupiter study many doctors are urging some people
with normal cholesterol to start taking them too. Jupiter tested more than
15,000 people who had normal LDL levels and high levels of an inflammation
“ For the group taking statins there was between a 40 and 50 % reduction in the
risk of the things we really care about, like death, stroke, heart attack,”
Steven E. Nissen, MD, Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and Chairman
of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic, explained.
After less than two years the five year study was cut short because of those
findings. Cleveland clinic cardiologist Steven Nissen says the study changed the
way he practices medicine. He tells us before the results, he and a lot of other
doctors occasionally did blood tests for inflammation.
“Well, we’re making that measurement more often now,” Dr. Nissen said.
Doctors may use the results to prescribe statins to prevent heart disease. But,
University of California - San Diego, Dr. Beatrice Golomb says it is not known
with longer term use and in real world users, whether the benefits outweigh the
“It's portrayed as being so fantastically safe it should be put in the water
supply. The real world use this drug causes problems not infrequently,” Beatrice
Alexandra Golomb, M.D., Ph.D., an, associate professor of medicine at the
University of California - San Diego School of Medicine, said.
Golomb tells us while some people benefit from statins others have reported
symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s. Muscle weakness, nerve damage, and cognitive
problems have also been issues.
For people in the Jupiter study...
“There was evidence of a significant increase in incident diabetes,” Dr.Golomb
She wants to see more studies on the drug’s long term effects on patients with
inflammation, but Dr. Nissen still believes in most of those cases statins work.
“It’s taken more to convince others and I respect people who are cautious,”
Dr.Golomb says she would like to see other, potentially safer, anti-inflammatory
agents like low-dose aspirin tested to see if the effects are similar or even
better than statins. As for people with normal cholesterol, other risk factors
for heart disease inflammation blood tests are inexpensive and available at just
about every hospital.