Sunday, November 21, 2010

New Study Confirms Statins Cause Diabetes

New Study Confirms Statins Cause Diabetes

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 06:55PM

The results of a new study have just been published in The Lancet. The researchers found that statins increase the risk for diabetes. This increased risk seems very small - its 0.4 percent. However, this is more significant than it may first seem.

The authors of the published report have stated that the benefits of statins still far outweigh the risks. But do they?

When looking at the 'benefits' of statins, we should look at how many lives are actually saved by the drugs. The JUPITER trial, which has recently been used to justify the wider use of statins, showed that statins reduce deaths from all-causes by only 0.55 percent.

This mere 0.55 percent reduction in deaths is not even the worse case scenario. Since other trials, such as the AFCAPS trial, the ASCOT trial, and the CARDS trial, all failed to show any significant reduction in deaths from all causes.

Strictly speaking, deaths from all-causes is the most important measure we should use to judge the effectiveness of a drug. Since there is not much point if the drug reduces the risk for one disease but at the same time increases the risk for another disease within the same time period. But 'experts' often focus on the cardiovascular benefits of statins in order to make the drugs appear to be better than they actually are.

Even if we do just look at cardiovascular benefits, the results are certainly nothing to shout about. The JUPITER trial mentioned above found that statins reduce the risk for ‘hard cardiac events’ (heart attack, stroke, or death from cardiovascular causes), by just 0.9 percent.

Statins can be more effective when used by people who already have heart disease. But even here the benefits in terms of actual lives saved have been mixed. And most people who take statins are at a low risk of developing heart disease.

So, when we put the 'benefits' of statins into context we can see that this increase in diabetes is by no means trivial. Any increase in diabetes should be of concern, since diabetes drastically increases the risk for heart disease, and the full extend of these risks would not be seen during a statin clinical trial. This is because statin trials are only 2 to 6 years in duration – the full extent of the increased risks associated with diabetes develop over a much longer period of time.

And we have not included in this discussion the long list of other officially recognised adverse effects associated with statins. Or the significant questions that still remain concerning statins and cancer, and statins and heart failure.

There are no published studies to show that statins provide any benefit after 5 or 6 years, yet millions of people are being asked to take the drugs for several decades. The best case scenario is that any net benefit associated with statins hangs on a knife edge. Despite this, in the UK alone, we spend hundreds of millions of pounds on these drugs every year.

There is no need for pharmaceutical companies to worry about the increased risk for diabetes associated with statins, since they have other (equally ineffective) drugs for that as well.

Note: I have used absolute percentages for this discussion. In most cases, relative percentages are used in summary reports and throughout the media. All text books on clinical research advise against the use of relative percentages in this context since relative percentages are totally misleading and do not allow people to make accurate comparisons of risk.


Sattar N, et al. Statins and risk of incident diabetes: a collaborative meta-analysis of randomised statin trials. Lancet 2010; DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61965-6

Ever Wondered Why Statin Drug Trials Are Stopped Early?

Ever Wondered Why Statin Drug Trials Are Stopped Early?
from Justin Smith Blog by Justin Smith

All clinical trails involving cholesterol-lowering statin drugs have been relatively short in duration. Usually they run for about 5 years and sometimes only for 2 years. There are no published trials to show the long-term effects of statins, however, patients are being asked to take statins for several decades.

This may seem slightly trivial, but it really isn't. How long a drug is consumed can have a significant effect on the risk/benefit balance. Especially where statins are concerned – since any benefit of statins already hangs by a thread.

Some adverse effects of statins can occur quickly (like muscle aches and pains) and others (like diabetes) may take longer to develop. The full extent of the adverse effects associated with statins is not seen in just 5 years – it would take much longer to see the full effects.

So, drug companies can effectively choose the duration of the trial that will show their drugs in the best possible light. Drug companies also have a history of not publishing studies that show their drugs to be ineffective or harmfull – well lets face it, they are a business at the end of the day, with immense pressures to increase profits for shareholders.

The fact that no longer-term studies have been published on statins should make us very concerned. At the very least, our health authorities (who are supposed to protect us) should be asking for at least one long-term trial. We know that money is not an issue, because the drug companies keep doing more and more relatively short trials. Instead of this repetition we could have a longer trial that might tell us something new.

In 2008, the results of the JUPITER trial were published. This trial attracted a lot of media attention around the world and I have commented on it several times before. In summary, the statin used only managed to reduce deaths from all causes by a mere 0.55 percent (despite the nonsensical relative percentages that the drug company put out to the media to exaggerate the results).

One of the many interesting aspects of the JUPITER trial is that it was stopped early. It was stopped after just 1.9 years.

I have always suspected that this trial was stopped early because if it was allowed to continue even the miniscule 0.55 percent benefit would disappear.

A few days ago, a study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), that looked at the effects of stopping trials early. This study found that trials stopped early almost always show much better results for the drug being tested than if the trial was allowed to run its full duration.

In fact, the JAMA study showed that any drug benefits may be doubled by stopping the trial early. This means that the 0.55 percent reduction in deaths found in the JUPITER trial would have almost completely disappeared if the trial was allowed to run its full course.

The statin used in the JUPITER trial caused more people to develop diabetes, and all statins cause a long list of other adverse effects (some of which result in permanent damage). Knowing this, was it wise for the FDA to approve the wider use of statins based on the results of the JUPITER trial?


Bassler, D et al. randomized trials early for benefit and estimation of treatment effects: systematic review and meta-regression analysis. JAMA 2010; 303(12):1180-7

Ridker PM et al. Rosuvastatin to prevent vascular events in men and women with elevated C-reactive protein. New England Journal of Medicine 2008; 359:2195–2207

Bad Cholesterol is now Good

Bad Cholesterol is now Good  - Dec092009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 04:59PM

People take cholesterol-lowering statin drugs to reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL ‘cholesterol’), however ‘bad’ cholesterol may not be as bad as we think. A study published in the American Heart Journal looked at the cholesterol levels of people who had been admitted to hospital in America with heart disease. The study included 136,905 people – all of these people had their LDL level measured within 24 hours of arrival in hospital.

The graph below is taken directly from the study. I have marked on the graph the suggested ideal LDL level of 3 mmol/l (or 120 mg/dl). We are constantly told that our risk for heart disease is reduced below this level and above this level our risk increases.

We can immediately see that the majority of these people with existing heart disease had an LDL level below the suggested ideal level – LOWER levels of so called 'bad' cholesterol were much more likely to be associated with heart disease than higher levels. This of course is the opposite of what we are expected to believe.

The average LDL level for this group of people was 2.7 mmol/l (or 104 mg/dl). However, the average LDL level for the general population around the same time was 3.2 mmol/l (124 mg/dl).

If people with heart disease have lower LDL levels than the general population, then perhaps we need to rethink the policy of spending hundreds of millions of pounds on reducing LDL levels in the general population.


Carroll MD et al (2005) Trends in serum lipids and lipoproteins of adults, 1960–2002. Journal of the American Medical Association 294 pp1773–1781.

Sachdeva A et al (2009) Lipid levels in patients hospitalized with coronary artery disease: an analysis of 136,905 hospitalizations in get with the guidelines. American Heart Journal 157 111–117

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Dr. Briffa on statins and cholesterol reduction

Recent review on statins ignores body of evidence that suggests these drugs don’t work through cholesterol-reduction

http://www.drbriffa.com/blog/   November 15, 2010

Recent review on statins ignores body of evidence that suggests these drugs don’t work through cholesterol-reduction

Big cholesterol news emerged last week on the publication (much publicised) of a massive meta-analysis of statin treatment in those at relatively high risk of cardiovascular disease. The idea of this meta-analysis was to assess whether aggressive lowering of cholesterol (specifically LDL-cholesterol) brings additional benefits in terms of cardiovascular disease protection. The meta-analysis included results from a total of 26 trials (involving a total of about 170,000 individuals) [1].

What this meta-analysis found was that more intensive lowering of cholesterol was associated with a reduced risk of ‘vascular events’ such as heart attacks, fatal heart attacks and the most common form of stroke (ischaemic stroke). The authors state that for each 1.0 mmol/L (39 mg/dl) reduction in LDL-cholesterol, risk of vascular events was reduced by about a fifth. They go on to say “reduction of LDL cholesterol by 2-3 mmol/L would reduce risk by about 40-50 per cent.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, this meta-analysis is being used to ram home the conventional view that cholesterol causes cardiovascular disease, and that lower levels of LDL-cholesterol are better. However, there are a number of reasons why this study fails to tell the whole story about statins and cholesterol reduction.

Statin drugs have a number of different mechanisms which might allow them to reduce cardiovascular disease risk in a way which has nothing to do with cholesterol reduction. For example, statins have anti-inflammatory effects, which we would expect to lead to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Now, when we intensively lower cholesterol with these drugs, non-cholesterol-related effects (e.g. anti-inflammatory action) will generally be increased too. So, we cannot assume that any additional benefits from more intensive statin therapy have come from more intensive lowering of cholesterol.

In this meta-analysis, the results of a large number of studies was pooled. The problem is, these studies used a range of different drugs at different doses. Sometimes, the drugs were being tested against placebos, and sometimes they were being tested against other drugs. Rarely, two doses of the same drug were tested. Basically, the studies represent a huge hotchpotch of ‘methodologies’ and ‘variables’.

If you really want to take a scientific approach to assessing the role of cholesterol reduction on health, you would ‘control your variables’. This basically means changing only one thing. So, for instance, you could give two groups of people differing doses of the same statin. You could then see if the group on the higher dose had additional benefits, and also see if this appeared to be related to cholesterol reduction or something else. You’d be surprised how rarely such studies are done.

One example of such a study is the so-called TNT study [2]. Here, individuals with heart disease (very high risk of future vascular events) were given either 10 or 80 mg of atorvastatin for an average of about 5 years. The higher dose did lead to lower LDL levels and lower risk of death due to heart-related disease. The absolute reduce in risk was 0.5 per cent, by the way, so nothing to get too excited about. Plus, this study did not report on the non-cholesterol-related effects of the two different dosages, and so it’s impossible to gauge if the relative benefit of the higher dosage was down to LDL reduction and/or something else.

It should also be borne in mind, by the way, that the higher dose of statin in this study (eight times the lower dose, remember) did not lead to a reduction in overall risk of death. In other words, taking 8 times the dose of this drug for five years did not, overall, extend life by a single day, even in individuals at high risk of heart attacks and stroke.

The idea that the anti-inflammatory effects of statins (and not their cholesterol-reducing effects) may be at the heart of their benefits has been bolstered by work focusing on an inflammatory marker known as C-reactive protein (CRP). Statins are known to have the capacity to reduce CRP levels.

In one study [3] assessing the relationship between statin therapy and cholesterol and CRP levels, it was discovered that “Patients who have low CRP levels after statin therapy have better clinical outcomes than those with higher CRP levels, regardless of the resultant level of LDL cholesterol.” (emphasis mine).

In another study [4] published in the same edition of the journal, statin therapy and cardiovascular disease risk assessed using ultrasound scanning of the inside of the coronary arteries. It was found that “atherosclerosis regressed in the patients with the greatest reduction in CRP levels, but not in those with the greatest reduction in LDL cholesterol levels.”

In yet another study [5] it was found that when treating with statins, those with the highest levels of inflammatory markers at the start of the study derived the most benefit, irrespective of initial cholesterol

Evidence that statins don’t work through their cholesterol-reducing effect comes from other evidence, including the findings that:

•Statins substantially reduce the risk of stroke, despite the fact that raised cholesterol levels are a weak or non-existent risk factor for stroke [6,7].

•Statins are claimed to reduce CVD risk in individuals who have ‘normal’ or even ‘low’ cholesterol levels [8].

•More intensive cholesterol reduction does not necessarily lead to improved outcomes [9].

Despite what the authors of the recent Lancet review would have us believe, there is considerable evidence that statins primarily work through mechanism that are independent of their cholesterol-reducing effects.

Stepping aside from the science for a moment, let’s also perhaps inject some common sense. Let us not forget that cholesterol is a natural constituent of the body that is a major component in cell membranes, the brain, steroid hormones (including sex hormones) and vitamin D (which appears to have major disease-protective properties). It simply does not make sense to me that driving levels of this key substance to lower and lower levels if, in and of itself, beneficial to health. We would not make the case for driving levels of, say, sodium to lower and lower levels, would we? Or blood sugar levels?

All rationality and common sense seems to fly out of the window when certain doctors and scientists start talking about cholesterol. And when it comes to the science, it’s clear that many are ignorant of or choose to ignore the stacks of evidence that clearly contradict their stance.


1. Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ Collaboration. Efficacy and safety of more intensive lowering of LDL cholesterol: a meta-analysis of data from 170,000 participants in 26 randomised trials. Lancet 9 November 2010 [epub ahead of print]

2. La Rosa JC, et al. Intensive lipid lowering with atorvastatin in patients with stable coronary disease. N Engl J Med. 2005;352(14):1425-35

3. Ridker PM, et al. C-reactive protein levels and outcomes after statin therapy. N Engl J Med 2005;352(1):20-8

4. Nissen SE, et al. Statin therapy, LDL cholesterol, C-reactive protein and coronary artery disease. N Engl J Med. 2005;352(1):29-38

5. Ridker PM, et al. Inflammation, pravastatin, and the risk of coronary events after myocardial infarction in patients with average cholesterol levels. Cholesterol and Recurrent Events (CARE) Investigators. Circulation. 1998;98(9):839-44

6. Cholesterol, diastolic blood pressure, and stroke: 13,000 strokes in 450,000 people in 45 prospective cohorts. Prospective studies collaboration. Lancet 1995;346(8991-8992):1647-53.

7. Imamura T, et al. LDL cholesterol and the development of stroke subtypes and coronary heart disease in a general Japanese population: the Hisayama study. Stroke 2009;40(2):382-8

8. Ridker PM, et al, JUPITER Study Group. Rosuvastatin to prevent vascular events in men and women with elevated C-reactive protein. N Engl J Med 2008;359(21):2195-2207

9. Kastelein JJ, et al, ENHANCE Investigators. Simvastatin with or without ezetimibe in familial hypercholesterolemia. N Engl J Med 2008;358(14):1431-1443

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

More Misleading Information and Propaganda from the British Heart Foundation

Good new article by Justin Smith author of "$29 billion reasons to lie about cholesterol"
More Misleading Information and Propaganda from the British Heart Foundation

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 at 11:30AM

Here is the latest headline from the British Heart Foundation (BHF):

“Research by BHF-funded scientists has shown that when it comes to cholesterol, ‘lower seems to be better’ for protecting us against heart attacks... The researchers looked at the effects of increasing the dosage of statins, a medicine that reduces cholesterol. They showed that a bigger drop in cholesterol – from more intensive treatment with statins – cut risks even more.”

This refers to a study just released in the Lancet. This study, and the media hype that the BHF have created about it, is nothing more than an attempt to confuse and mislead people.

If you read the headlines and the summary report you could certainly be forgiven for thinking that statins are wonder drugs and cholesterol really is humanity’s nemesis. This study did indeed find a reduction in heart attacks associated with more intensive use of statin drugs. However, there are at least four major reasons why the results are misleading.

The first reason is that the reduction in risk quoted in the interpretation of the study refers to a reduction in LDL cholesterol that is not normally seen in real life. This exaggerates the perceived benefits.

The interpretation refers to reductions in LDL levels of 2-3 mmol/l. The authors state that this reduction in LDL cholesterol would reduce the risk of a vascular event (such as a heart attack) by 40-50 percent.

Well, LDL cholesterol is typically around 2-3 mmol/l anyway, so the suggestion that it could be reduced by 2-3 mmol/l is nonsense – most people would have to be clinically dead to achieve this drastic reduction. So, the suggested risk reduction is completely academic and for most people could never happen.

The second reason is that, as usual, relative percentages are used instead of absolute percentages. This problem is ubiquitous in statin clinical trials and I have commented on it many times before. The risk reductions of 40-50 percent are relative percentages, which can only mislead people. In real terms, the percentages come down to single digits or less.

The third reason is that, as usual, the issue of deaths from all causes is not addressed. Statins can reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack or other cardiovascular event, but at the same time, these drugs can also increase the risk of dying from other causes, and overall, there is usually no net benefit.

There is not much point in taking an expensive medication if the risk for one disease is reduced at the cost of increasing the risk for another disease within the same time period.

I called the BHF today and asked them for the data concerning deaths from all causes. The press office said they didn't know, but they did kindly send me the full report for the study.

In this trial, the risk of dying from any cause was reduced from 2.3 percent to 2.1 percent. So, in real terms, the benefit of more intensive statin use equates to a risk reduction of just 0.2 percent.

But even this meagre 0.2 percent risk reduction may not be experienced by real people who take statins. This issue relates to the fourth problem with this study.

The forth reason why the results are misleading is that the analysis did not distinguish between people at a lower risk for a heart attack and people at a higher risk.

Around 7 million people are taking statins in England alone, and in America it is estimated that more than 20 million people may be taking them. The vast majority of these people are taking statins for primary prevention. This means that they do not have cardiovascular disease but are given the medications in the hope of preventing future disease.

To date, there is no convincing evidence that statins provide any net benefit to people when they are taken for primary prevention - they do not reduce the overall death rate. This was the conclusion of the latest analysis in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The analysis that the BHF are supporting includes data from higher risk groups - the results do not represent the majority of people who currently take a statin.