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While recognized as one of the most commonly prescribed drugs, researchers are saying that statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs may not reduce the risk of heart disease after all.
That’s according to the British Medical Journal, following an analysis of 35 studies into the effects of the drugs, according to the Daily Mail.
Statins lower “bad” LDL cholesterol — elevated levels increase the risk of dying from heart disease, when combined with factors like age and family history.
Researchers systematically reviewed all published clinical trials comparing treatment with one of three types of cholesterol-lowering drugs – statins, ezetimibe and PCSK9, and found that the drugs has no consistent benefit, the British tabloid reported
Three-quarters of all trials reported no reduction in mortality among those on statins, with half suggesting that the pills did not prevent heart attacks or strokes, even though the common belief has been that targeting “bad” cholesterol with these drugs is the most effective way to lower risks.
The researchers claim doctors have overlooked evidence that suggests the drug is not effective.
“In most fields of science the existence of contradictory evidence usually leads to a paradigm shift or modification of the theory in question,” said lead author Dr Robert DuBroff, from the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. “But in this case the contradictory evidence has been largely ignored, simply because it doesn’t fit the prevailing paradigm.”
DuBroff said “it seems intuitive and logical” to target LDL cholesterol, but the idea does not hold up.
“Considering that dozens of trials of LDL-cholesterol reduction have failed to demonstrate a consistent benefit, we should question the validity of this theory,” he said.
Not only do researchers say statins are not particularly effective at reducing death, they argue that the focus on cholesterol levels fails to identify many of those at high risk of heart disease while including those at low risk, who don’t need treatment, the Daily Mail reported.
The article included several experts who were critical of the findings.
“There is a huge amount of evidence showing that LDL or “bad” cholesterol is responsible, to a large extent, for the build-up of fat in the blood vessels supplying the heart, brain and other parts of the body,” said University of Sheffield cardiologist professor Robert Storey.
“People who have developed furring of these blood vessels benefit greatly from treatment to lower cholesterol, such as statins, and this has contributed to a big fall in risk for patients who have had the most common types of heart attack and stroke,” he said. “Where the evidence becomes less clear is for the use of cholesterol-lowering treatment in people who do not have any evidence of furring of the arteries.”
University College London professor of cardiovascular physiology and pharmacology Alun Hughes said the authors conducted “flawed analysis of published data.”
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, medical director at the British Heart Foundation, stood by the use of statins.
‘There’s no question that statins save lives,” Samani insisted. “As one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the UK, they have been subject to a huge amount of in-depth scientific research, which time and time again, has shown that they’re a safe and effective way to prevent deadly heart attacks and strokes.”
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