Anatomy of a statin ad

lipitor-ad

I posted last year about all the trouble Pfizer got into by using Robert Jarvik, the developer of the artificial heart, as their spokesman for the most commonly prescribed statin drug Lipitor.  Pfizer has taken a new tack and is now bombarding the airwaves with yet another commercial for Lipitor using as their spokesman an actual victim of a heart attack.

They chose a 58 year old California ad man and talent agent named John Erlendson who did indeed have a heart attack at age 57, and who was not taking any cholesterol-lowering medicines prior to that.  As opposed to the Gollum-like Jarvik, Mr. Erlendson comes across as a sincere guy who is genuinely distraught over his medical condition.  He is easy to empathize with.

Pfizer spent $181 million advertising Lipitor last year, and if the frequency with which they are running their new ad is any indication, I’m sure they are not pinching pennies with their ad budget now. It’s difficult to have a television on for half an hour and not see Mr. Erlendson at least once.  But, hey, what’s a measly $181 million when you’ve got sales of $12.7 billion?  I’ll take that deal any day.

This recent ad is a prime example of how viewers are manipulated by clever ad people.  You’ve got to be able to interpret the ads just like you do the medical literature.  I want to walk through this ad with you, but first, just take a minute and watch it.

Makes you want to run out and grab some Lipitor quick, doesn’t it.  You don’t want John Erlendson’s fate to befall you, and based on his oozing sincerity, neither does he.

You know how the ad makes you feel.  Now let’s look at it line by line to see what it really says.

Mr. Erlendson looks out from the screen and says:

Talk about a wake up call.  I had a heart attack at 57.

Okay.  I’ll buy that.  It would be a wake up call.

My doctor told me I should have been doing more for my high cholesterol.

As it turns out, Mr. Erlendson did have high cholesterol before his heart attack, and his doctor probably did warn him about it. (Of course, 50 percent of people who have heart attacks have normal or low cholesterol, so his being high is not the danger sign so many think it is.)

What was I thinking?

What indeed?

But now I trust my heart to Lipitor.

There are several implications in the above dialogue that we all accept subconsciously.  First, that high cholesterol was the cause of this man’s heart attack.  Second, that had he taken Lipitor he would have prevented his heart attack.  And third that you, the viewer, can protect yourself against Mr. Erlendson’s fate if only you take Lipitor before it’s too late.

Notice how cleverly they got this message across without actually saying it?  That can’t make the claim that high cholesterol causes heart disease because, although the vast majority of people seem to believe it, that relationship has never been proven.  Pfizer would have had the FDA all over them had they tried to actually make the claim that Lipitor would have prevented Mr. E’s heart attack because they have no way of knowing that.  Based on the randomized clinical trials for statins, Mr. Erlendson was not in a high risk group, so there is no evidence that a statin drug would have done him any good whatsoever.  And the FDA would never have allowed Pfizer to actually say anything remotely like: Take Lipitor and protect yourself from Mr. E’s fate.  But, because of how cleverly this ad was written, this all comes across without it being said, so the FDA can’t lay a glove on them.

Next in the commercial, Mr. Erlendson carries on in the background and the announcer comes on in a voice over.

When diet and exercise are not enough, adding Lipitor may help.

Really?  Rubbing Vick’s Vapor Rub on your chest ‘may’ help too.  ‘May’ is a real weasel word that ad people use all the time.  They say ‘may,’ the listener hears ‘will.’

Interestingly, during the voice over part of the commercial Mr. Erlendson can be seen in the background riding a bike, which implies that he probably was exercising yet still had his heart attack. Or it implies that now that he’s on Lipitor, his life has changed for the better.  I can’t figure out which.

The voice over continues:

Unlike some other cholesterol-lowering medications, Lipitor is FDA approved to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and certain kinds of heart surgeries if you have several common risk factors for heart disease.

There is an entire daisy chain of weasel words.  The ad doesn’t say that Lipitor will reduce the number of heart attacks, stroke, etc., it says that it will reduce the risk IF you have several common risk factors.  No one knows what causes heart disease, so no one really knows what the risk factors are.  So we’ll take a bunch of what we think are risk factors, put them in tiny print at the bottom of the ad, and tell you that Lipitor reduces these risk factors.

Here is my favorite.

Lipitor has been extensively studied with over 16 years of research.

Yes, but has this 16 years of research shown anything worthwhile?  It has shown that Lipitor and other statin drugs don’t reduce all-cause mortality (the statistic you should really care about) in women of any age, in men over 65 and in men under 65 with no history of heart disease.  Only in men under 65 who have actually had a heart attack have statins shown any benefit in reducing all-cause mortality.  And even that is minimal.  Mr. Erlendson falls into this last group, so he is one of the few people who may actually get some benefit from a statin.  But he didn’t fall into this group before his heart attack because he had no history of heart disease before his heart attack.  High cholesterol is a lab finding, not a history of heart disease.  In sum, the 16 years of Lipitor research have been pretty fruitless.  But that’s not the message you take away from this ad.

Then the voice over drones quickly through all the problems that one can experience with Lipitor.  Then it’s back to Mr. Erlendson.

I learned the hard way, but you may be able to do something.

There is our friendly weasel word ‘may’ yet again.  Implies, once more, that Lipitor will save your butt.

Then back to the voice over.

Have a heart to heart with your doctor about your risk and about Lipitor.

Okay, so the next time you go to your doctor, you inquire about your cholesterol and ask if Lipitor would work for you.  After all, you don’t want to learn the hard way like John Erlendson, do you?  Your doctor, being brainwashed as they almost all are, gives you a prescription for Lipitor because, hey, why not, it’s so good they’re talking about putting it in the drinking water.

You go away with a $150 a month drug habit that does you no good whatsoever.

The creative people at Pfizer have put together an ad that says nothing, but implies everything.  They stay out of hot water with all the regulatory agencies, yet the viewer takes away the exact message that the advertiser could never get by with saying explicitly.  Is it any wonder that half the country is on a statin?  Ain’t Madison Avenue grand?

And, by the way, you, too, can be in a Lipitor ad.  Click here to find out how.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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69 thoughts on “Anatomy of a statin ad

  1. Am I glad we don’t have adverts for medications in the UK on telly or in the press. I can’t imagine how it would affect viewers/readers, or perhaps I can from what you say, plus surely these things must turn people into hypochondriacs.

    Personally I wouldn’t trust a company that felt it needed to peddle its products to the general public. I’m all for finding out as much as I can about any medications I’m prescribed but I do that after I’ve been prescribed them, and then, if I don’t like what I read, go back to my doctor and complain and ask for something else…which I then research and so on.

    bw’s
    Anne

  2. Dr. Eades GREAT POST. And please use the description “weasel word” more……it really makes me smile.
    There is still hope though….I call it DVR or Tivo.
    With a little luck, as more people get it……commercials won’t be seen anymore 😉

    Off topic.
    As you might recall I took my 10 year old son to the pediatric endocrinologist.
    It was a refreshing visit with a young Doctor.
    He was engaging, genuinely interested and took his time. He made it very clear he was the wrong guy to just “prescribe GH” to gain a few inches. Only and only if after the tests show that Jack is GH deficient, will he start talking about the possibilities of it. We are awaiting the results of the lab work.

    Have a wonderful weekend.
    Marc

    Glad you found a good doc. Keep me posted on the outcome.

  3. THANK YOU!!! I just saw that ad again this morning, and every time I do, I scream at the TV screen. My husband just groans when the ad comes on because he knows I’ll start my tirade again.

    You confirmed every last word of my rant. Yup, 16 years of research. Too bad they never found anything substantial, huh?

    After seeing the ad this morning, I was thinking, “Why doesn’t Dr. Eades address THIS one?” And, voila, you did!

    THANK YOU!

  4. Excellent post. I hate pharmaceutical ads with a passion. I’d rather watch 5 of those obnoxious “Head On” commercials in a row than one pharma ad.

    Slightly off-topic question:

    Do you have any experience or data on the typical variance of components in the blood over the course of the day or from day to day? I’ve always had a concern that my lab results we’re not reflective of a true baseline average and that blood may have been drawn during a “peak” or “valley” thereby showing too high or low values.

    An example of this was demonstrated recently by my wife who had only her 25-OH D tested. She wasn’t instructed to fast before blood was drawn (not sure if this is required for Vit D or not) and so ate breakfast and took 2000 IU of D3 as per her normal routine. For previous Vit D tests she was fasting since she was getting a lipid profile at the same time also. Well, the latest results showed that her 25-OH D came back around 83ng/mL which was up from around 33ng/mL during the summer. Now she had increased her Vit D3 supplementation during this period from 4000 IU/day to 6000 IU/day but only because of the summer to winter transition. Even with the increased supplementation, we haven’t seen blood levels jump this much, this fast. So, I suppose the question is, could the 2000 IU dose of Vit D in the morning before the test cause a transient spike of 25-OH D that was measured by the lab?

    Working as an analytical chemist I have a hard time trusting one data point, especially when making supplementation or medication decisions based on this one data point.

    Many thanks,

    Ned

    I guess the short answer is that I don’t know for sure. I don’t think the jump from 33 to 83 ng/mL after several months of 4000-6000 IU per day supplementation is out of line, however. It’s about what I would expect. I really don’t think the dose the day of the test would make a big difference, but I don’t know for absolutely certain.

  5. “Really? Rubbing Vick’s Vapor Rub on your chest ‘may’ help too.”

    Stop it, damn you. I am laughing so hard I have tears streaming down my face…

    PS – Awesome deconstruction as usual. Have you spent any time at Peter’s blog at http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com ? He does some excellent deconstruction as well.

    PPS – Thanks to my free copy of PPLP, after reading the iron chapter, I decided to get my ferritin tested. It’s around 225, so I’ll start donating blood soon.

    Glad you enjoyed the book and found it helpful.

  6. Dr Mike, I have a slightly different take on this advertisement. I do think it is clever but where I differ is that I think this ad is fairly responsible. Lets face it, advertising is a necessary evil and well, to quote Jack Nicholson in ‘As good as it gets’… “schmucks are people too”.

    “When diet and exercise are not enough, adding Lipitor may help.”. Your focus was on the latter part of this statement. As you pointed out, they say ‘may help’ which apparently in certain instances is a possibility. I think “when diet and exercise are not enough” is probably the most important statement in this advertisement. This implies to me that diet and exercise is the best way to prevent heart disease. They don’t say what diet or which type of exercise. And I guess if that fails you… what the hell, you may as well try some medication is the message.

    Having a case study is the probably the best way to sell a product although many advertising agencies use actors instead of real people(not inferring anything here). Who can dispute a person’s actual experience. However Mr. Erlendson makes no real claims that Lipitor has helped him at all. He mentions his doctor urged him to do something about his cholesterol but never says his doctor told him to take Lipitor. He does say that he “now trusts his heart to Lipitor” which is really weird but that is as close as the company can come to making a claim without actually doing so. It really says nothing.

    The voice over or voice of Lipitor states that the product has been tested for 16 years but they make no claims. They state they are FDA approved as a drug to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. This is just a classification, not a proven declaration of benefit.

    The lesson here is that we the consumer need to listen carefully and realize the goal of advertisers is usually to make money not to enrich your life somehow.

    I’m not saying this ad isn’t semi-responsible, I’m just saying that it plays into the fears of the common man and implies many things that can’t be said. The message people take away from it is the exact message Pfizer wants them to take away from it, but Pfizer hasn’t had to make any claims (which would not be allowed) to get the message across.

  7. My favorite weasel words from the drug pushers are “side effects may include”. These are not “side effects” but are direct effects.
    travis t

  8. The best satire on these pharmaceutical ads is at panexa.com. You and your readers really should google it. Very funny stuff.

  9. Great post! The sad part is that Mr. Erlendson is most likely unaware of the significant damage statins can do to his body, and is trusting that Big pharma has HIS best interests in mind.

    Dr. Mike, here’s another off topic question: I’ve just learned about a molecule called adiponectin. Researchers are saying is has profound effects on metabolic syndrome.. here’s a 2003 paper titled Adiponectin and Metabolic Syndrome on it: http://atvb.ahajournals.org/cgi/reprint/24/1/29

    Heard anything about this?

    I’ve heard a lot about it. Adiponectin has been much in the scientific news for the past 5 or 6 years. I probably have 50+ papers on adiponectin in my files, including the one you reference above. It’s an interesting substance. I’ll post on it one of these days.

  10. what about statins and diabetics? I’ve read that they can indeed help in some way but not sure what this mechanism is.

    You’ve read that statins can help diabetics because the media wash awash in stories over this subject after an observational study came out showing some benefit. But, observational studies don’t mean anything.

  11. Dr. Mike,

    I have a somewhat different take on the aforementioned commercial.

    My first impression of the commercial was that the statin turned him into a zombie. He stares a lot and moves around in slow motion, like he’s in a fog.

    If that’s what statins do to you…no thank you.

    Really enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work.

  12. “When diet and exercise are not enough…” really means, “When you’re not willing to eat well or exercise…”

    I think showing him riding around is suggests to the viewer: Take Lipitor and you can enjoy an active life — it makes you healthy!”

    “Tell your doctor if you have any muscle pain or weakness…” needed to be followed up with “…because statins block an important vitamin-like metabolic chemical, CoQ10, and you’re doctor failed to tell you to supplement with this!”

  13. Mike,

    Bravo!! and don’t you just love with this dweeb is “exercising.” Wow, I mean, he’s lifting his bike off a bike rack!!!! Holy horse hockey!!, and THEN, well good golly, ms molly, he’s WALKING that bike, but he does have his helmet on JUST IN CASE, he doesn’t fall off the damn thing while he’s COASTING down the hill, prior of course to taking in I’m sure a picnic meal replete with AHA approved crap. What crock of unremitting horse manure.

    as usual, good work!!

    tony

  14. Great timing! You are so right, but it’s like the Emperor has no clothes when one talks about this to others, especially to those in medicine who are indoctrinated into this view.

    We had an appt with my our new primary care physician yesterday morning to discuss my 53 yo husband’s not-so-good [elective and out-of-pocket] coronary calcium scan score (and his not-so-good lipoprotein test results in the fractions). My husband is asymptomatic, though his blood pressure has been mildly elevated for a number of years (not treated) and in the past 20 years he’s had a few attacks of supraventricular tachycardia (hope I got that right).

    No doubt about it, my husband has woken up to need to do something to maintain his health and not be so passive about it. He needs to finally quit smoking (he’s been a half-pack-a-day guy for over 30 years – I know, I married a bad boy), he needs some some strength-building exercise (he’s definitely lost some strength and muscle mass in recent years), and he should quit the cafeteria food at work (I make sure he eats well at home, but I suspect the even the “better choices” at work like Caesar Salad have nasty soybean oil and hidden sugars especially in the dressing, plus he hasn’t given up his croissant habit and has allowed more bread to creep back into his diet away from home. He’s also been under a lot of work stress the past few years, so that probably hasn’t helped and I’m not sure what can be done about that, at least in the short term (increased NIH grant funding for basic science research would help a lot :-).

    My husband has already started on a few changes, like taking his lunch to work to further avoid the unknowns of the cafeteria food, we’re looking at Dr. Davis’s Track Your Plaque program to see if that might help to manage the plaque, and I found and dusted off the Slow Burn book that I bought, read, and never put into use. Strength-training exercise would be good for both us anyway, though we might need to wait until his hernia repaired in Feb. and I see how I might need to modify things for my POP issues.

    So we went into the doc appt with the idea of trying lifestyle changes first to see if we can’t get the plaque to at least grow less, but hopefully stabilize, or maybe even regress. We were prepared to be offered a statin Rx and we were in agreement that it wasn’t the first thing to try. I don’t think we said anything hostile, but wow, it didn’t go very well. It’s pretty clear the approach of choice is to go right to the statins and pay lip service to anything diet and lifestyle related. He didn’t even go over most of the lab report with us, except to point out the negatives, and ignoring anything that was remotely suggestive of good factors.

    What we weren’t prepared for was the doc’s defensive and hostile reaction. He told my husband he’s in denial (several times). We were accused of mistrusting the medical establishment, were told that it would be medical malpractice if the doc didn’t prescribe a statin, and that my husband will die of CAD before he’s 60 if he doesn’t “go along” with the protocol (a cardiology consult and CT angiogram are also suggested and we’re considering that and also what it might lead to – our review last night indicates there does seem to be one cardiologist in the system who has a strong interest in lifestyle factors and prevention). But this doc interpreted our desire for a non-drug approach as simply taking acai berry and mangosteen (his said that, we didn’t say anything like that) or whatever the miracle food de jour is. That is NOT the approach we wanted to use. I guess the doc is used to patients who are so scared they’ll agree to anything and this was a shock to him.

    Sure, my husband is scared (and a bit depressed about it all), but he’s not a sheep, and I certainly am no longer a sheep when it comes to the care we get in this system (I learned that the hard way). So I guess the doc did get it right that we don’t trust the medical establishment :-).

    To be fair, we don’t have much of an established relationship with this doc yet and he certainly doesn’t know much about us, what we’re capable of understanding (or at least discussing in a 10-15 minute appt), and how the issues of contemporary approaches to CVD have been in my viewfinder for some time. So I’m sure he was caught off guard by us coming in wanting to discuss an alternative approach to statins and not just listen and follow along.

    I chose this Family Medicine doc for our family last fall (our former internist left the system we’re in and my son’s 58 yo pediatrician had died suddenly), because he seemed a bit more enlightened than the other choices in our system; he was up on the latest with Vit D level research, was familiar with bioidentical hormones and compounded Rx, and even had the EBT Coronary Calcium Scan promotion poster up in the exam room and highly recommended getting them, even if we had to pay-out-of pocket. And when my husband went in for a hernia consult, his high BP was noted and instead of just writing a Rx, the doc wanted a log of home BP readings for a month to see what the pattern was. Then he sent a reminder letter when my husband neglected to get the blood draw for the labs within a few weeks. And the lipid panel he did wasn’t the simple one, it was a VAP – with all the lipoprotein subfractions, which does provide some insight into what might be causing the plaque in my husband’s arteries. This new doc seemed so promising (or at least not like the other close-minded ones I’ve seen), but I guess it’s too much anymore to ask for a doc that is up on the latest stuff, open minded in general, but still hasn’t been indoctrinated into the statinators. He interpreted our desire for a non-drug approach as simply taking acai berry and mangosteen (his suggestion, not ours).

    Sigh. Talking to one’s doctor isn’t nearly as simple as the ads suggest, is it? Unless one wants a Rx for a statin. Of course, our doc was quick to point out he’s prescribe a generic statin, not a name brand. Oh goody.

    Sadly, the entire medical community has taken the statin bait hook, line and sinker. Although virtually all doctors would rate their own critical thinking skills as exceptionally high, the truth is that they don’t think critically. They don’t read the medical literature. They certainly don’t read the scientific literature. They get most of their info from drug reps and the occasional conference they have to attend to keep their CME up for licensure purposes. And based on the last couple of these I’ve gone to, the statinators are running wild. It’s no wonder all these non-critical thinking sheep want to prescribe these drugs at the drop of a hat. Your husband is not in a group for whom statins have been shown to increase all-cause mortality. He is male, under 65 and has not been diagnosed with heart disease (elevated cholesterol is not heart disease) – which makes him part of a group for whom statins have shown no benefit. But I’ll bet you that not one in a hundred, hell, not one in a thousand doctors knows that. They see a touch of elevated cholesterol and their knees start to jerk and they grab for the statin prescription pad.

    I agree that your husband should quit smoking and should probably modify his diet in a low-carb direction. And he should probably increase vitamin D3 intake, which is one of the supplements Dr. Davis has found that brings about dramatic lowering of calcium scores.

    Good luck and keep me posted.

  15. Dr. Mike,
    Can you recommend a few of those adiponectin papers for those of us who would like to learn more? (That would be me, specifically).. 😉

    I’ll have to dig them out. You may have inspired me to do a post on adiponectin. If you get tired of waiting, go to PubMed and put ‘adiponectin’ in the search window, and you’ll get hundreds of papers. It’s a hot topic right now.

  16. Oh yeah, the good news is my coronary calcium score was 0. 🙂 So at least I won’t be offered a serving of statins, even though my cholesterol is “high” (260-something). Or will I?

    Given the history of your interaction with your doctor that you described a few comments down (or up – I don’t know which way they go), I would be surprised if you weren’t offered a serving. And with a calcium score of 0, I would be surprised if you took him up on the offer. Especially since statins have never been shown to confer and benefit to women whatsoever.

  17. Great post. My fear though is the doctors who prescribe this stuff to people who will not benefit. After all, all the ads in the world don’t help me get lipitor unless my neighborhood pill pusher is willing to give me his autograph.

    Believe me, go in with a minor elevation of your cholesterol, and he/she will be more than happy to give you an autograph.

  18. So sad. My dad takes Lipitor, no questions asked, and just assumes that it will help him because that’s what his doctor gave him. He isn’t opposed to a restricted carbohydrate lifestyle, but claims the stresses of work and eating out constantly would prevent him from succeeding. I won’t give up on him; this Lipitor is not the way to health.

    Thanks for the post, Doc.

    Good luck with Dad. It will be a battle.

  19. Like the UK, Canada also prohibits end-user marketing of prescription drugs. And rightly so in my opinion. Oddly though, there are plenty of Viagra/Cialis ads on TV here. I’m not sure how they skirt the restriction.

    It’s clear that doctors themselves, despite their expertise and technical education, can still be pressured and swayed by marketing, but the last thing the medical world needs is a ten thousand-fold increase in branding pressure from the couch potato demographic.

  20. I would volunteer to be on a Lipitor ad, but I don’t think they’d like what I would say — namely how I refused to take Lipitor when my doctor prescribed it and how I discovered it won’t really benefit me. 🙂

    I’ll bet they would love you. Give ’em a call.

  21. What can we say to a doctor that wants us to take a statin because she read about a study that said statins help diabetics with normal cholesterol? I think all the people in the study were men and I’m not. My cholesterol is also very low already.

    Start like this: Doc, you’re an idiot. Do you not read the medical literature? Do you know how to read the medical literature? Have you ever interpreted a study on your own or do you wait for the drug company to do it for you? These are just little suggestions for conversation starters to get the dialog going.

  22. When I was trying to learn more about multiple sclerosis I found a definition of myelin that described it as “a white fatty substance similar to cholesterol” that protects nerve tissue.

    Fortunately, my neurological problems do not include MS, but since then I’ve wondered if the increase in MS diagnoses is a “side effect” of statins.

    Meanwhile, I’m wondering why there seem to be no neurologists in the low carb camp since dietary fat seems essential for proper brain and nerve function.

    Both dietary fat and cholesterol are not just important, but are vital for proper neurological function.

  23. Last month I had lunch with four friends (one guy, three girls). We are all in our 40’s and none of us has had a heart attack. I was the only one at the table not on a statin. Two of my friends said they were trying to reduce the amount of fat in their diets. I nodded my head politely and mumbled something unintelligible. It’s just gotten to the point where I’ve given up trying to change people’s minds about statins or nutrition. All I can to is take care of myself. (By the way, at this lunch, I ate roast chicken and a salad with olive oil and vinegar–everyone else ate pasta or pizza.)

    Good for you. Three girls in their 40s on statins. How totally absurd.

  24. Great and inciteful interpretation once again, Dr. Mike. Ironically, I was listening to the radio while reading your post, and the segment was about a new book titled “Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics”. The authors were being interviewed and were highly critical of drug company commercials. Much of what they were saying was quite familiar to me thanks to your excellent posts. Any familiarity with this book or the authors (Steven Woloshin M.D.M.S., Lisa M. Schwartz M.D.M.S., and H. Gilbert Welch M.D. M.P.H.)?

    Don’t know them, but I’ll take a look at the book.

  25. On a similar vein I have been reading a lot of articles this past while on hypertension in its various forms in conjunction with articles by medical professional who hold critical views of the pharmaceutical industry similar to yours on medications such as statins.

    Several critical MDs have expressed the opinion that anti-hypertensive medications do nothing to address the underlying causes of hypertension. The the drugs simply create an illusion that the problem has been addressed by making the numbers look better (in most cases). Meantime the pathologies behind hypertension continue to manifest themselves. This makes perfect sense to me.

    All anti-hypertensive drugs have significant side effects, some serious or even fatal. Because of the often debilitating side effects 60% of the patients prescribed anti-hypertensive drugs quite taking them within 1 year presumably because the risks associated with hypertension are apparently more tolerable than the side effects of the medication.

    Some studies I found cited cases of patients on high doses of 2 or more medications whose blood pressure was still not controlled.

    At this point most people would assume (I certainly did) that any and all side effects could and should be rationalized on the basis that controlling high blood pressure will ‘save your life’ as inferred for statins by the Lipitor ad. But some medical professionals critical of the use of anti-hypertensive medications claim that improving the numbers with medication does squat because the underlying (real cause) of hypertension has not been addressed. And they claim any benefits of medications have not be proven.

    The above claim, with few exceptions, is certainly true of statins. But if it is true that patients who persevere in taking BP medications in spite of side effects receive no proven benefit I find this incredible.

    I haven’t studied the blood pressure/drugs situation as extensively as I have the cholesterol/statin one, so I can’t really comment intelligently.

  26. Hi doc just want to thank you and the misses for the copy of pplp. I took lipitor for almost three years until i finally decided to take control of my own health and not rely on pills. Im now been doing pp woe for almost 13 months now and have been off blood pressure meds now for over 8 mos. I cant thank you enough for what you do its changed my life completely. Thanks doc and keep up the fight eventually things will change. I just hope were around to see it.

    Congrats on all your health improvements! You did all the hard work.

  27. The frequency of this ad must be over-the-top; I only watch television once a week and managed to see it the other evening. I had the sound turned down, and at first thought it was an ad for an Alzheimer’s drug. The guy is like a zombie. Why is he moving so slowly? Maybe because he CAN’T from the muscle pain! What was he thinking? Obviously not much, but certainly not about cutting his carbs. Perhaps he was in a carb-induced fog. Or maybe he couldn’t remember what he was thinking because he was on an antihypertensive like methyldopa.

    Perhaps all of the above.

  28. Isn’t the US one of the few countries in the world that allows advertisements for medical drugs? Drug advertising shouldn’t be allowed. I remember all those adds that used to say “ask your doctor if lower is better” when it comes to cholesterol. About 14 years ago my doctor told me my cholesterol at 215 was too high and I should go on a low-fat diet to try and lower it! I tried the low-fat diet (yuk!) and a year later my cholesterol was up to 220 so the doc recommended that I take a statin. I took one for 10 years. I ate “low-fat” everything but gained 40 pounds! It obviously didn’t work for me, much as it doesn’t work for most people. After reading about all the problems with statins about 3 years ago, I quit cold-turkey. My cholesterol increased from 130 on Lipitor (which is dangerously low) to 160 three months after quitting. Going low-carb, breaking my sugar addiction, walking 2 or 3 miles a day and jogging some, and lately doing some intermittent fasting 18/6, I’ve managed to lose the 40 pounds that I had gained. And at 56, I feel more like 36! Looking back, the statins were such a waste of money! And I finally conquered my cholesterol confusion 🙂

    Sadly, your history is pretty common. Happily, you broke the chain and escaped. Congrats.

  29. As usual a great post. Thank you so much. I get my jollies by listening to the possible side effects of some of these drugs. My personal favorite is the one that says: may cause death.

    OOhh, I’m just going to rush to my doctor and beg him to give some pill that may cause death.

    I don’t think so, not in this lifetime. I would like to have this lifetime be a lot longer, thank you.

    Thank you so much for your humor and great way of showing the rest of us what the real deal is. Too bad the real deal ain’t much.

    Yep, death is pretty much the ultimate side effect.

  30. to quote Jack Nicholson in ‘As good as it gets’… “schmucks are people too”.

    Sorry… wrong movie… it was “Something’s Gotta Give.”

  31. Dr Eades, I dont know where I read it once, but the articlc showed that an average IQ of the person who commercials aim for ia about 6 th grader! Since a lot of doctors fall in this Lipitor trap theory linking high cholesterol to heart disease, wouldnt it make doctor”s IQ be at the 6 th level also when it comes to cholesterol lowerin drug! So if so many doctors in this country have an IQ of the 6 th grader when it comes to treating heart disease with lipitor, wouldnt it be logical to conclude that most of this country who has got hear disease is being treated by bunch of 6 graders! it is shocking than that heart epidemic or pendemic now is so widespread!

    I just finished listening Jimmy Moore interview Dr Carlson who wrote a book called How your Dr’s ignorance will kill you! He mentioned that to start turning the tide in this country we need to start with medical schools! Jimmy thaen mentioned that he knows one medical school in the country where it is already done, that is SUNY Downstate, where Dr Feiman teaches! I almost fell off my chair when I heard that! You know I work at Suny Downstate as an assistant director of student life department. I interact with medical and CHRP( college of health related professions) students all the time. Since low carb has been such a big part of my life, I conducted an unofficial, observational study about Dr Feinamn having a positive effect on changing medical school students outlook on efficacy of low carb diets. I did interview more than 200 med school students. I am involved with them in all kinds of social networking. I am the most visible and known person for most of the students on campus! Do you know how many of 200 said that Dr Feinman and his biochemistry class changed them into believing low carb is tha way to go? 000! Bet you almost half of them said that low carb is probably not a bad idea, but almost all of them said that they wouldnt recommend it to their future patients! I was shocked! It could be because: 1. most students that I deal with are very athletic and fit ( I also run a fitness foacility as part of my overall responsibility) so their outtake is eat balanced diet and exercise, shocking! 2. most of them believe low carb is unsustainable! So I would bet to differ that one poor biochemical professor can change minds of our future generations of doctors. Even biochemistry is taught in segments , and given how little nutrition can and is induced during their medical school education, is no surprise they gave me those answers! There has to be a complete, fundamental and revolutionary approach to changing minds and heart of doctors! Dr Eades how is your revolutionary path is going? Any updates?

    No updates yet, but we should be able to announce something within a couple of months.

    Too bad the students at SUNY Downstate aren’t just a little smarter. If your survey is accurate, it looks like they’re heading down the same path of stupidity (it’s ignorance for most medical students because they haven’t been exposed to low-carb, but stupidity for these because they have) that most doctors follow. Too bad.

  32. Dr Eades, can you keep it a secret and not tell Dr Feinman, lol! He is under impression, wrong mind you, that he might be changing people’s mind! May be my unofficial observational study was flawed in many ways, but it defintiely wasnt bias! But all of those young guys and girls did say that Dr Feinman is very passionate about low carb and he does stress it out in his lectures. My first question to all med school students was ” Do you know Dr Feinman?” Majority right away said ” That crazy low carb guy! Lol, dont tell him that either! So it is very hard to change minds, even as young and flexible as these kid’s minds. i still call them kids becuase most of them are still in their 20’s! I can only imagine how difficult it is to change minds of dinosaurs like Dr Ornish and such! I know you try Dr Eades, but more needed to be done! Unfortunately people have very short memeories and in the midst of life’s hectic regimen seem to forget about nutrition and its enormous side effects! I thought when my favorite TV journalist, Tim Russell, died of heart diseeas there was going to be so much dismay and talk about heart diseas and changes necesaary! Yeah, ok! It s a good thing if half of the people still remember who Tim was and what he did! After all so many people dont even know who the vice-president is, shameful!

  33. ME: Although virtually all doctors would rate their own critical thinking skills as exceptionally high, the truth is that they don’t think critically.

    If anything this is an understatement.

    What blows me away is that the typical MD jumps at the chance to write a statin script for any and everything to the point where statins are coming to be considered as essential to human health as oxygen. Yet despite a growing number of studies showing the importance of vitamin D to every aspect of health and the widespread existence of deficiencies (contrary to the RD’s position that vitamin deficiencies are non-existent) it would be rare in Canada for an MD to order a simple test for vitamin D status as part of routine blood work.

    At my last consult with my MD I asked him for a requisition for a 25-OH-D test. He gave me a puzzled look. So I told him that I wanted a test for vitamin D status. Another puzzled look as in “Why would you want this?” After a pause to reflect on my request he said “The lab we use doesn’t do this test”. So I went to the lab and asked them if they do a 25-OH-D. They told me they did. But my read from the tone of the response was that my interest was somewhat bizarre. Now if vitamin D were patented and sold for big bucks like statins I think the situation would probably be very different.

    It’s hard to believe such ignorance from a physician in Canada where vitamin D deficiency is epidemic. I’ll bet he ‘knows’ that anyone of any age or any sex should get a statin should they have even minimally elevated cholesterol levels.

  34. Is this guy drinking too much coolaid or is there any truth to this? My mom did colonoscopy and it literally saved her life! She was diagnosed with colon cancer but it was in the first stage and was removed. Soon after she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and it was successfully removed. I read studies that say the same mechanisms that arfe involved in colon cancer are identical in thyroid cancer as well. Here is what my question was related to:
    Greetings,

    Eight months ago I contacted Ms. Katie Couric of CBS Televisions asking her to stop endorsing screening colonoscopies. The reasons for this unusual and urgent request were many:

    ● Since the en mass screening started in year 2000 (following her televised colonoscopy), the annual incidence of colorectal cancer in the United States increased by 22%.

    ● The risk of death or injury related to colonoscopies is 10 times higher than for any other cancer screening. For each life allegedly “saved” from colon cancer, between 30 and 60 people are killed or injured by screening colonoscopy

    ● A single, virtual colonoscopy (x-ray computed tomography, CT scan) increases your lifetime risk of any cancer 4 to 8 times more than your original risk of colon cancer (20% increase for any cancer vis-à-vis 2.5% to 5% for colon cancer).

    ● According to one of the most-often sited study ­- The Telemark Polyp Study I – screening colonoscopy increases the relative risk of death from all other causes by 57%.

    ● The 18 years long Minnesota Colon Cancer Control Study of over 46 thousand persons demonstrated only a 0.6% absolute reduction in the incidence of colorectal cancer among screened patients. Statistically speaking, this is less than nothing.

    ● A clinical research to prove the effectiveness of colonoscopies has never been conducted.

    Regretfully, Ms. Couric has never responded to my letter. So, a few months ago I went on to produced an investigative video report entitled ‘Death By Colonoscopy.’ It outlines all these risks and the role of Ms. Couric in this grand-scale, medical fraud. (You can watch entire report/read transcript at http://www.GutSense.org.)

    The release of my report coincided with a similarly scandalous research just published by the Annals of Internal Medicine – the ‘blue chip’ medical journal of the American College of Physicians. The editorial conclusions are similar, albeit more ‘diplomatic:’ “A goal of avoiding all deaths from colon cancer may be admirable, but we do not have evidence that we can achieve it.”

    Of note, Dr. Baxter, the lead researcher, is Canada-based. This explains why her extensive research has been funded and found the light of day — unlike in the United States, universal healthcare in Canada isn’t run for profit.

    Please share the information in this letter and my report with your family, friends, and colleagues, particularly with anyone who may be in a high-risk group for colon cancer. It may save their lives, and not just from colon cancer.

    Wishing you good health and good luck! With “preventative medicine” like this you’ll need a lot of it.

    Konstantin Monastyrsky, author of Gut Sense and Fiber Menace

    P.S. My wife and I are both in the high-risk group for colon cancer. Even though we are both 54, neither one of us have had a colonoscopy, and aren’t planning to have one without serious reason. As I said on video, we are concerned, but not stupid. Not surprisingly, I’ve accumulated a great deal of know-how on the risks and prevention of colorectal cancer. This information is now available in the new Death by Colonoscopy section on my site.

    There is more than some truth to it. Many people are starting to question the wisdom of our mad rush to avail ourselves of every diagnostic screening procedure know to man without really considering whether these procedures cause more morbidity and mortality than they prevent.

  35. Hi Dr. Eades

    How do you think these statin pushing doctors would respond to a patient saying:

    “Doctor (fill in blank) , instead of prescribing me a very dangerous statin drug, why not tell me to exercise adequately, get a full 8 hours of quality sleep, be sure to have a handful of nutrient anti – oxidant rich vegetables a day , eat low glycemic index, supplement with fish oil, and regularly meditate? All prevention strategies shown to reduce CAD mortality and CAD incidence and overall mortality to a far greater degree than statins in clinical trials “?

    I wonder how they would respond if a patient brought that up?

    Great article Dr. Eades. Keep on exposing the anti- saturated fat /anti – cholesterol cartel.

    Take Care,

    Razwell

    I think most doctors would say, Okay, let’s give it a month or two. If it doesn’t work, we’ll start you on a statin.

  36. I have a question, that is off topic from the current blog entry. My husband and I have been devouring your books, cleaning out our pantry, and making low carb changes to our family meals. And then, I got sick, hit with the current cold/flu bug going around the Canadian prairies. Now I find myself in a quandry. All the comfort foods from my childhood and the remedies I used with my family are high carb. For example, my mom taught me BRAT which stands for bananas, rice, apple juice, and toast. Usually I would sip a fizzy soda to settle a queasy stomach (ginger ale for example) and eat soda crackers. I now know that these foods will give me a sugar hit and increase insulin production, but I am unsure what other and perhaps better choices I could make. Could you please make a small house call and advise some alternatives? Thanks from the frozen North, Joanne

    You can always drink diet ginger ale instead of the real stuff. Most OTC cold and flu meds have ‘no sugar’ versions. And you can do my favorite thing to do, which is drink cups of hot beef and/or chicken bouillon. Bouillon is what I got as a kid when I was sick, so it is comfort food to me. You want to keep the carbs low because glucose competes with vitamin C for entry into the cells, and you need the vitamin C in your cells. And, if you’re in the frozen North in the winter, vitamin D is a must. Plus, take some Umcka if it is available in your area.

  37. What amount of vitamin d would my Mom need to take at 53?

    She needs to get a lab test to see for sure. She will probably do okay with 2000 IU vitamin D3 per day. But she needs to have her 25 OH vitD checked.

  38. A few posters have commented that their MD has tried to get them on statins because their MD heard through an observational study that statins helped diabetics with normal cholesterol.

    There is now a blanket recommendation to get every diabetic on statins no matter how good their tests are. Once you have been diagnosed as diabetic it doesn’t matter whether you can get your BG levels within normal limits on a low carb diet and every other test within normal limits. You are now fair game in a hunting season with no limits.

    Even if you are doing well by all current standards, including normal BG, it is now being posited that you could have ‘latent damage’ that tests have not detected (and may never detect). So your MD is encouraged to get you on statins and anything else he or she can dream up in the name of ‘responsible treatment’.

    Sad but true. These recommendations come from an observational study, which, of course, means nothing. In that case, though, it means that a whole lot of people who don’t need statins will get them.

  39. Dr Mike, how are your football picks going? Mine are disasterous! I dispise Baltimore Ravens with a passion! I cant stomack much of them afte what they did to my Giants in Superbowl few years back. PLus they are cocky bunch of guys, very cocky! I cant believe I just lost my money. Cant believe they beat Tenessee. How unlucky is Collins? What an ugly game it was for Kerry Collins and all thoes fumbles! I am not sure if you did watch the game, but surely hope you didnt lose your bet at least!

    Today I did well. I got the Ravens +3 and the Cardinals +10 and won them both. Now I’ve just got to figure out what to do about tomorrow.

  40. I thought the Jupiter study showed a reduction in all cause mortality from takin statins?

    Minimally, and only one specific statin, and only in a particular group of people with an unusual set of conditions. Read about it here.

  41. Congrats, you did good indeed! Great picks! I thought Baltimore vs Tenessee was going to be close, but boy did Ravens got lucky( 4 fumbles, 2 almost in the ened zone and running back who they couldnt stop got hurt , what a lucky team) . I dont know who to chose tomorrow either. I am a huge giants fan, so not betting against them, lol! But San Diego against Pits who knows? Everyone seems to think San Diego is going to have a touph times due to very bad east coast conditions, but San Diego is always dangerous! Anyway good luck and please dont bet against my Giants! lol, they are going to win!

    Uh oh. I’m on Philadelphia +4.5. But with a small bet only because I don’t feel that secure with it. I hope the Giants do win…by 4 points.

  42. Do you know of any correlation between statins and/or high blood pressure medications and pancreatitis? I don’t recall it mentioned anywhere. Pancreatitis does seem to to be much more common these days. I am wondering if that is true and if it is, is it due to an increase of alcohol consumption or can it possibly be related to something that nobody is looking to make a correlation between, such as the increased use of statin drugs? After hearing the stern warning from the ad regarding liver disease and realizing that most drug advertisements have this same warning, I got to thinking…

    It may be fairly common for a person to be on statins for a long time, drink alcohol on a daily basis, eat a rich diet, take tylenol for the strange upper stomach discomfort they have been experiencing because they don’t want to further upset their stomach with aspirin or ibuprofen. Is this not a recipe for disaster? And the symptoms can go on for quite some time before it is diagnosed as pancreatitis. Remember, they have been on a medication that has a stern liver disease warning. Is it too far fetched to believe that pharmaceutical company warning of a disease prohibiting you to use the drug, is actually your ghost of Christmas future… of a disease perpetuated by an undisclosed or not yet known side effect of the very drug itself?

    I don’t know. I’ve never heard of it, but now I’ll start keeping my ear to the ground.

  43. Off the topic, but interesting. The NYT has a clip, Living With: Obesity, about an overweight man with diabetes trying to lose weight. His doctor actually admits that some glucose-lowering drugs, including insulin, cause hunger and inhibit weight loss. The man eats salads and protein and less starches (no mention of fat) and has lost 70 lbs, I think. That-which-must-not-be-suggested, LOW CARB, never passes anyone’s lips. But holy cow, the poor man’s girlfriend fiercely wants him to exercise too, or she fears all will be for nought. She says he can get in a workout by taking the stairs to their 29th floor apartment.

    http://video.nytimes.com/video/playlist/health/1194811622283/index.html#1194837513574

    The man’s girlfriend is obviously not a reader of the medical literature. The guy probably does need to exercise for all the health benefits it confers, but not for weight loss.

  44. Dr. Eades,
    You are right that this expensive ad is and laced with double meanings and seductive verbal and visual details. Great care and research goes into designing these successful money traps.
    For instance, the line “But now I trust my heart to Lipitor” could be right out of a soap opera. Subconsciously, it implies, “Now I am deeply in love with Lipitor, and this new relationship has changed/saved my life.”
    On the visual side, is it pure chance or local law that has Mr. Erlenson wearing a solid helmet while biking? No. Instead, it says: “I am a person, like you, who takes no unnecessary risks and willingly complies with the word of experts, even when their advice means I need to purchase something that may seem inconvenient or expensive as first. Once I didn’t take their advice, and it almost cost me my life! So if you wear a helmet and think bike safety like me, you should also take Lipitor, like everyone else who cautious and makes smart investments.”

  45. 11 January 2009

    Hi Dr. Eades,

    My article on statins came out on a national Philippine newspaper a few days ago and I thank you for the interesting information I got from your blog.

    Sincerely,

    Angel S. Respicio, Jr. MD
    Nutrition Adviser (on leave), The Sleeplab at Hawaii Medical Center- West

    Here is the article:

    Health and Family
    Stayin’ Alive With Statins?
    By Angel S. Respicio, Jr. MD Philippine Star 06 January 2009

    High cholesterol in the blood is the health issue of the 21st century. Being told this is like a dagger in the chest straight to the heart. It is a death sentence synonymous with heart attack and stroke (brain attack). Fortunately, we have cholesterol-lowering medications, of which the most popular is the group called statins. Thanks to the different drug companies that have the heart to manufacture them, and to most doctors who agree as they were led to believe.

    If hypercholesterolemia spells disaster, we should get to know it better. Dr. Mary Enig defines cholesterol as a high molecular weight alcohol. It is not a fat and it doesn’t have calories. Dietary cholesterol comes mostly from breast milk, regular whole milk, egg yolk, and animal tissues. For cholesterol to be absorbed in the intestine, however, it would hitchhike with a chylomicron (a fat and protein combination or lipoprotein). It flows to the lymphatic system, enters the bloodstream via the left subclavian vein (near your left collar bone or clavicle), then finds its way into the liver. Now, you know.

    If you don’t eat cholesterol-rich food, what happens? The body would manufacture its much-needed 3,000 to 4,000 mg. daily requirement. The liver is the major contributor at 95 percent, but it would overshoot production without cholesterol in the diet which acts as negative feedback. All cholesterol is made from the basic molecule called acetyl CoA, which comes from the metabolism of carbohydrate, metabolism of extra protein, and metabolism of fat.

    Why The Body Needs Cholesterol

    If cholesterol is bad, why would the body synthesize it? If your health care provider hasn’t told you the merits of pure unoxidized cholesterol from the above sources, you better think twice. Yes, the body makes it for many reasons. According to Dr. Enig, infants need it for proper brain development, as a raw material for scar formation (wound healing) and maintaining the proper rigidity and flexibility of cell membranes. With one billion cells replaced per hour, the body needs it round the clock. Chris Masterjohn further adds that cholesterol boosts memory and mental performance, helps in digestion as it is used by the liver to make bile acids, and, as precursor of vitamin D, builds strong bones. Take note, all steroid hormones are derived from cholesterol. These are mineralocorticoids that regulate sodium and blood pressure, glucocorticoids that regulate blood sugar, and sex hormones (progesterone, estrogen, testosterone) that maintain athletic performance, libido, muscle mass, and more. As an electron donor, it acts as an antioxidant.

    Why would doctors prescribe cholesterol-lowering medications? Dr. Enig and Sally Fallon call hypercholesterolemia an invented disease, a problem that emerged when health professionals learned how to measure cholesterol levels in the blood. Who suffers from this invention? Peruse the medical literature of 30-35 years ago and you’ll get the following answer: any middle-aged man whose cholesterol level is over 240 mg./dL with other risk factors such as smoking and overweight. After the Cholesterol Consensus Conference in 1984, the parameters changed; anyone with cholesterol over 200 could receive the dreaded diagnosis and a prescription for pills. That number has been moved down to 180.

    If you have had a heart attack, you must take cholesterol-lowering medications, along with a boring low-fat diet even if your cholesterol is already very low (less than 150 mg./dL) after all, you have committed the sin of having a heart attack. But why wait until you have a heart attack? Now that the newest class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, statins, has become a bonanza of profits for Big Pharma, new cholesterol guidelines are promoted, and new junk theories about cholesterol’s relationship to various diseases are being manufactured, to maximize the profit-potential of these drugs by classifying nearly every member of society as a candidate for drug therapy, including children. These statins, sold under a variety of names, include Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin), Mevacor (lovastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), and Crestor (rosuvastatin).

    Great Promise For Statin Drugs

    Statin drugs entered the market with great promise. They have no immediate side effects unlike the earlier class of medications that prevented the absorption of cholesterol. They were consistently effective in lowering cholesterol levels by 50 points or more. How? By blocking the enzyme HMG Co-A reductase (hydroxymethyl glutaric acid-CoA reductase) which is responsible for transforming HMG to mevalonate. Mevalonate is the parent compound that transforms into several important intermediary substances before it finally becomes cholesterol. Herein lies the potential for numerous side effects, because these intermediate substances have important biochemical functions in their own right.

    Co-enzyme Q 10, one of the intermediary substances, provides energy to cells and maintains membrane integrity so critical to nerve conduction and muscle integrity. It is vital in the formation of elastin and collagen; otherwise, you develop muscle wasting which manifests as weakness, severe back pain, heart failure (the heart is a muscle!), neuropathy, and inflammation of tendons and ligaments. Dolichols, on the other hand, direct various proteins, ensuring that cells respond correctly to genetically-programmed instruction. Squalene, which has anti-cancer effects, is also blocked. Other untoward effects include cognitive impairment, global transient amnesia, dizziness, pancreatic rot, depression, and poor libido.

    What is the science behind the endorsement of statins?

    In 1948, the Framingham Heart Study, under the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), embarked on an ambitious project in health research. Considered the most famous, largest, and often-cited studies in support of the cholesterol hypothesis, it is still ongoing today. One of the findings of the Framingham study was, for every 1 mg./dL decrease in cholesterol in people over 47 years, there was a corresponding 11-percent increase in heart disease risk. Yet a joint statement of the American Heart Association and the NHLBI wrote the precise opposite! Again in the Framingham Diet Study, then Director Dr. William B. Kannel concluded in 1960 that a diet rich in cholesterol and fat leads to coronary heart disease. Their statistician Dr. Tavia Gordon, however, discovered the raw data in 1970, collated it, and found a conclusion to the contrary. But Dr. Kannel won’t rectify the error. Twenty two years later, then director Dr. Edward P. Castelli published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, “In Framingham, Massachusetts, the people who ate the most cholesterol, saturated fat, and calories weighed the least, and were the most physically active!” It was incriminating hence it didn’t resonate to the four corners of the Planet Earth.

    Meanwhile, the Big Pharma designed and funded research geared towards perpetuating the usefulness of statins. One was the Jupiter research, which Dr. Michael Eades stated was stopped in the middle of the project because “the group on rosuvastatin (Crestor) developed diabetes during the trial at a significantly higher rate than did those on placebo (Truth versus hype in the Jupiter study).”

    No Decrease In Mortality

    Dr. Eades, sums it up thus, “Placebo-controlled studies (the only kind that matters) have shown that statins provide no decrease in all-cause mortality (the only statistic that really counts) in women of any age and men over 65, whether they’ve ever had a heart attack or not. The only group of people for whom statins have shown any benefit in terms of a decrease in all-cause mortality is men under the age of 65 who have already had a heart attack. And even in these men, the decrease in all-cause mortality is minuscule.

    As Dr. Uffe Ravnskov emphasized, most quoted heart disease risk improvements (some as high as 36 percent) are relative figures. In absolute terms, it is less than two percent. Some authorities, therefore, don’t even think the expense of statins is worth the tiny risk reduction. John Carey (BusinessWeek, 28 Jan. 2008) did the math and found out “for every 100 people taking this statin (Lipitor) for three years and three months, only one person is spared a heart attack.”

    For consumers who cannot afford these medications or have concerns about the unwanted side effects, there is hope. Dr. Ravnskov (The Cholesterol Myths) reminds us of the risks for stroke: smoking, stress, sedentary lifestyle, overweight, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension..

    Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon, on the other hand, have this food for thought: Trans fats (vegetable shortening, partially hydrogenated oil, margarine) and oxidized cholesterol in reduced-fat and powdered milk cause inflammation of blood vessels, creating potential sites of rupture. Refined sugars stimulate clumping of blood platelets, blocking very small arteries. Cod liver oil provides anti-inflammatory vitamin A, vitamin D, and EPA. Saturated fats encourage the production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. They increase the good HDL-cholesterol and non-atherogenic fluffy type LDL-cholesterol. Copper, especially from liver, prevents clot formation and inflammation in the arteries. Coconut oil protects against bacteria and viruses that can lead to inflammation in the artery.

    By the way, if you read the fine print on statin drug literature, it says: “This statin has not been determined to prevent heart disease, heart attacks or strokes.”

    Nice article. Thanks for the inclusion.

  46. Re: Kris’ comment regarding the possible correlation between statin drugs and the increase of incidences of panreatitis…

    I’m not sure of the statin/pancreatitis correlation, but I can tell you that eating a low fat diet, while practically starving myself on said diet to lose weight, resulted in pancreatitis for me, and ultimately the removal of my gall bladder.

    So, with the current “wisdom” that low fat diets are the healthy and recommended way to go, I’d think the increase of pancreatitis correlates to the low fat diet fad. A horrible, unhealthy fad that has lasted way too long.

    I only wish I had found healthy low carb eating before I ruined several organs on low fat.

    As for statins (and to stay somewhat on topic to the post), I’ll never take them, and will dissuade all friends and family members from ever taking them.

    I never watch television, so I’m not familiar with the ads, so thanks Dr. Mike for this info on what a load of crap the pharm companies are putting out on the airwaves.

  47. In Canada Pfizer is part of a coordinated campaign designed to help people ‘make the connection’ http://www.makingtheconnection.ca/en/home/

    Connection to what? Three guesses. Follow the list of sponsors of the program set out along the bottom of the web page from left to right…………..right to Pfizer. There, you just made the connection. Now go to your family doctor and say “Lipitor”. Great! You got the message.

    Disgusting.

  48. Dr Eades is there a good liver cleansing formula out there on alow carb plan? I think I overindulged myself on too much food and my body is acting up. I feel lightheaded, weak and bloated. I was watching my giants girls lose to Philadelphia. They crumbled like a cheap russian automille and so did I. Is there a way to eat to get my liver a break, I think it needs it!

    The best liver cleansing formula is to avoid alcohol, coffee (and other caffeine-containing foods and beverages), and tylenol and other OTC drugs that are metabolized in the liver. The liver has wonderful regenerative capabilities if left alone. The above substances are all metabolized in the liver, and, as such, consume much of the liver’s capacity. If they are avoided for a while, the liver should come around. Also, according to a number of studies, vegetable oils increase fat accumulation in the liver while saturated fats do just the opposite.

  49. My Father was prescribed statins as a precautionary after having chest pains.No heart condition was discovered. He was on them for about a year and has now come off them after having Parkinson type symptoms i.e tremors throughout his body,he has virtually no energy to do anything and even gets tired whilst showering.
    He has started taking 100mg Co enzyme Q10 after reading it may help.

    He has an appointment with a neurologist next week,but I am concerned that the doctor will just try more drugs on him for his condition,to see if it works instead of getting to the cause and solution of his problems.
    It seems the doctors in the UK are pawns of the medical reps and push the drugs that will make them the most income.

    Any advice for my Father would be most welcome.

    Thanks

    I would use much more CoQ10 than 100 mg/day for someone who has been on statins for a while. More in the neighborhood of 300 mg/day. Given his symptoms, your father could well have Parkinson’s (which probably is not a consequence of the statins) and should improve on anti-Parkinson’s meds.

  50. According to a new Swedish study, Statins might have the added benefit of killing off beta cells in diabetics. Always something, right!

    http://sydsvenskan.se/kropp/article405002/Liten-sankning-av-kolesterol-riskabel-for-diabetiker.html

    http://translate.google.com/translate?prev=&hl=sv&u=http%3A%2F%2Fsydsvenskan.se%2Fkropp%2Farticle405002%2FLiten-sankning-av-kolesterol-riskabel-for-diabetiker.html&sl=sv&tl=en

    I had already pulled this paper from FASEB, but haven’t had the chance to read it yet. It looks really intriguing, which is why I pulled it in the first place. Once I do read it thoroughly if it really is as good as it looks in the abstract, I’ll post on it.

  51. For those with diabetes and excellent blood results, just tell your medical professional you don’t believe in birth control. Seriously. I’m in my early 40s and my A1C’s run between 4.8 and 5.1. My triglycerides and other levels are excellent to better than excellent. My BMI is 25.5 (ok, ok ok…i know, still got about 15-20lbs to lose…). Inspite of this I am offered (nay, badgered!) statins at every turn. When I replied that hubby and I didn’t believe in birth control they’ve left me alone. Hubby too.

    YMMV.

    Sad what we have to do to avoid unnecessary and unwanted medical treatments.

    (Yes, I know the odds of conception are teensy at my age. What scares them is the ‘one chance in a million’ that they could get sued for regarding birth defects from statins…)

    Good idea. Or you could always tell them you are trying to get pregnant. Unfortunately, it only works for half the population.

  52. when I saw this ad whizing by on the tivo, I almost paused to watch it, perhaps to admire it as a masterpiece of propaganda, 60 seconds of uber-flim-flammery. Somehow tho, I decided watching Jack Bauer torture bad guys was more urgent, haha. Too bad we can’t sick Mr. Bauer on the numbskulls who perperate this stuff…

    Yes, indeed. Watching a few statinators receiving some well-placed electric shocks would make for a pleasant couple of hours. What could we get them to confess to, though?

  53. Thank you for the liver cleansing advice. One thing though about vegetables oil vs saturated fat, is it much better to use coconut oil for example than even olive oil if I do a lot of sauteeing? I love sauteed food, garlic in a white wine, sauteed spincah and much more. I thought olive oil was it! I do fry on coconut oil since it has a much better temperature threshold! So are you saying even sauteing food using coconut oil would be better than olive oil for my liver? How about good, old butter?

    MD uses butter or coconut oil for hot frying and often olive oil when it’s not too hot.

  54. Dr. Mike,

    The TRUTH about statins cannot be brought to light often enough.
    Big Pharma invented a problem a generation ago (high cholesterol causes heart disease) and, of course, had the solution (statins) at the ready.
    Together with their ad agencies and PR firms and an unlimited budget for “physician education”, they were able to convince all doctors cholesterol was the culprit and played upon consumers’ collective fear to sell trillions of expensive pills with no actual proof they worked. Meanwhile, patients were left to deal with an alarming number of side effects and the high cost of an expensive med one needed to take every single day.
    Despite the evidence that there is virtually no causal link between high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, Pfizer and its cronies continue unabated.
    We need docs like yourself who are independent and unbeholden to Big Pharma and the supposed
    “expert” advice from MDs who are solidly in their back pockets to expose the dangers of being seduced by these frightfully effective attempts at mass mind control.
    In terms of heart disease, cholesterol is not the problem.
    Therefore, cholesterol-controlling medications CANNOT be the solution.
    It really IS that simple.

    Well put. It truly is that simple.

  55. “What could we get them to confess to, though?”

    This answer that you gave to a previous comment would be a good starting place:

    Do you not read the medical literature? Do you know how to read the medical literature? Have you ever interpreted a study on your own or do you wait for the drug company to do it for you?

    Heh, great post. I hate that commercial almost as I hated the Jarvek ones. That line about “What was I thinking?” just makes me crazy.

    Well, let’s put the thumbscrews to them and see what they come up with. 🙂

  56. Dr. Eades: I remember reading some time back that you and MD practiced medicine in Colorado.

    Recently, I read that you and MD are now living part of the time in California. Does that also mean that you are also practicing medicine here in California? And are you accepting new patients here? Just curious. If you are, I would consider making an appointment with you or MD at some time in the future.

    Thanks in advance for answering my question.

    We live in California part time, but we are not licensed to practice in California nor do we have a clinic there. In fact, we don’t currently have a clinic anywhere. We are taking a sabbatical from active practice to focus on research, writing and lecturing.

  57. Does the Swedish paper on statins and beta cells have PMID? I searched entrez with ‘statin beta cell’ and didn’t see anything useful Could also mean *I* am not very useful LOL.

    The nearest I found was this:

    “Simvastatin reverses high glucose-induced apoptosis of mesangial cells via modulation of Wnt signaling pathway.”
    Lin CL, Cheng H, Tung CW, Huang WJ, Chang PJ, Yang JT, Wang JY.
    Am J Nephrol. 2008;28(2):290-7. Epub 2007 Nov 14.
    PMID: 18004065

    You’re going to have to help me with this one. Which Swedish paper? Where was it mentioned?

    Thanks.

  58. Graeme, your father’s symptoms are very similar to the symptoms that Duane Graveline, MD. and others on his forum experienced after taking a statin. Dr. Graveline wrote a book called Lipitor Thief of Memory in which he describes the effects a statin had on his memory and health.
    He has since developed what his doctor is calling “statin related” ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Others’ have developed a condition called mitochondrial myopathy which results in the symptoms you described in relation to your father. I don’t know if mitchondrial myopathy is involved as in some of the cases on his forum, but it may be something you want to investigate.. here is the link to his story and the forums.. http://www.spacedoc.net/rest_of_my_story.html

  59. Well he could get a job as a funeral director so sad, calm and sincere too bad I was laughing so much I actually didn’t hear most of it!! oh well who says Lipitor isn’t good for something – laughter is the best medicine after all.

  60. Dr. Eades, thanks for answering my previous question. I was not aware that you and MD were taking such a sabbatical from practicing medicine (I recall reading that you had a clinic in or near Boulder, Colorado). I hope that you post notices of any upcoming lectures on your website here. If you and MD do any lectures in the Southern California area, I will attempt to get there to hear you. Thanks again.

    Will do. When we get our new website/blog redesign up, it should have a section that shows our schedule. As it stands right now, we have no lectures planned in So Cal in the near future, but that is subject to change at any moment.

  61. You probably already saw this report, but in case not, here is a cite:

    Michael O’Riordan. Majority of patients hospitalized with CAD at guideline-recommended LDL targets. theheart.org. [Clinical Conditions > Lipid/Metabolic > Lipid/Metabolic]; Jan 20, 2009. Accessed at http://www.theheart.org/article/936127.do on Jan 22, 2009

    For the hospitalized CAD patients: “Mean lipid levels were LDL 104.9 +/- 39.8, HDL 39.7 +/- 13.2, and triglyceride 161 +/- 128 mg/dL” from which the apparent conclusion is to revise the guidelines because most patients had “normal” LDL levels. I presume that means more statins!

    Whatever it takes to give more statins. That’s the name of the game today.

  62. What is your take on the IDEAL study (Incremental Decrease in Endpoints through aggressive lipid lowering) that compared atorvastin 80 mg vs simvastatin 20 mg? According to their conclusions in their abstract, “In this study of patients with previous MI, intensive lowering of LDL-C did not result in a significant reduction in the primary outcome of major coronary events, but did reduce the risk of other composite secondary end points and nonfatal acute MI. There were no differences in cardiovascular or all-cause mortality.”

  63. Thanks Mike and Ellen,my father had his appointment today with the neurologist and the the Doc suspects Parkinsons but is not 100% sure,he has asked for further tests to be carried out on his heart (angiogram),to see if his body will be suitable for treatment with a new parkinsons drug Rasagiline.
    He suggested that the coenzyme q10 is a waste of money but it would do no harm to try.
    I’m not so sure after reading this http://www.ninds.nih.gov/news_and_events/press_releases/pressrelease_parkinsons_coenzymeq10_101402.htm

    Sometimes I think the surgeons are influenced to easliy big brand pharma companies.

    Ellen I asked a question over at the Spacedoc site and was advised my Dad should take,
    along with the coq10 ,Acetyl L-Carnitine.D-Ribose 5,Magnesium and Zinc,Vitamin D.

    The problem being that although I have some faith in the help offered the docs tend to rubbish this type of stuff and I don’t know which way too turn,of all the websites I visit when researching I find them to be either very anti-Statin or Pro statin.

    I am even suspecting that he may have drug induced Parkinsonsims from the cocktail of drugs he has been prescribed including beta blockers,angina med,Ulcerative Colitis meds,statins and steroids he also has low blood iron levels.

    Very confused??

    It’s easy to see why you’re confused. I don’t know anything about your father’s condition and he’s not my patient, so I can’t really comment specifically. But, I can tell you that statin drugs deplete CoQ10 levels, so I would have anyone who is or has been on a statin supplement with CoQ10. I wrote a post about Parkinson’s and statins a while back that you might be interested in reading.

  64. Thanks yeah I am confused,I have read everywhere about statins depleting COq10,so was surprised my Fathers neurologist came out with such a statement

    I’m not.

  65. Great commentary Doctor. These drug ads (O’Reilly Factor being the absolute epicenter for them) are so cheeseball they make me laugh as the previous commenter said as well. The entire drug industry has to make their huge profits in the US because they’re forced to sell their drugs at gov’t regulated prices elsewhere in the world. So, every night as we watch a little tv we’re bombed with these asinine commercials for all sorts of malade imaginaire as the French say. I’ll take Jack Lalanne’s advice and just get some exercise every day and stick to a high protein diet, some fish oils and vitamins.