The Nation's Health + [Statin drugs]

Statin drugs:

Statin Drugs May Help the Healthy:
Cholesterol-Lowering Statin Drugs May Benefit People Without Heart Disease


That's the headline on WebMD, reporting the findings of a recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. In reality, it wasn't really a study at all, but a re-analysis of previously published data, a so-called meta-analysis.

Nonetheless, the University of Toronto group re-analyzed the results of several studies, pooling data on 28,000 people, none of whom had known coronary disease. The results were similar to the results of the studies that were reported individually: a 29% reduction in heart attack and other "events" in people taking statin drugs.

What's surprising to me is this notion that statins, or any other treatment for that matter, prevent heart attack in people without heart disease. This is idiotic. Of course they had coronary heart disease. You can't have a heart attack in the absence of coronary disease. (There are very rare exceptions, like cocaine users, who experience coronary spasm from the drug).

What the study shows is that people with unrecognized heart disease experienced a reduction in heart attack. What it also means is that many, many people truly without heart disease were unnecessarily treated. As you'd predict, the drug manufacturers love this sort of broad, untargeted use of their drugs. It's an approach that brings in billions of dollars of revenues. The article on WebMD, in fact, was accompanied by three ads for various cholesterol drugs on this single page story.

What if only people with heart disease, as identified by CT heart scan scores, were treated? You would indeed witness an even larger reduction in heart attack risk, because the group receiving treatment both has the disease and is thereby at greater risk. Treatment should yield even greater risk reduction than treating broad groups who superficially appear to not have heart disease.

Ignore this nonsense about statin drugs reducing heart attack risk in people without heart disease. If you don't look for it, you won't know you have it. Once again, you can be lots smarter than the media. Get a heart scan and find out if your risk is worth reducing.