Statins for Pregnant Women???
Statin manufacturers, the sycophantic researchers they pay, and the shameless hucksters who sell them are always up to no good, but their recent attempts to market them to pregnant women are simply horrifying.
According to a recent news article published in Mail online, researchers from liverpool believe that taking statins during pregnancy might help women avoid caesarean sections by promoting more robust uterine contraction. They hope to begin human trials in three to five years.
Somehow, the author of this article failed to react with the shock and horror appropriate to the situation -- which should be the same shock and horror with which we would react to the suggestion that pregnant women should take thalidomide to avoid morning sickness.
Back in 2004, a report in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the use of statins in the first trimester of pregnancy was associated with birth defects, especially severe central nervous system defects and limb deformities. In fact, 20 out of 52 women exposed to statins gave birth to offspring with such defects, which represents a birth defect rate of 38 percent, nearly 20 times the background rate of birth defects!
Even before this report was published, researchers already knew that statins caused birth defects in animal experiments, and the FDA already required the drugs to carry a label warning pregnant women to stay away from them. The article linked to above stated the following:
"FDA took this action because it was recognized that fetal cholesterol synthesis was essential for development, and because animals given statins during pregnancy had offspring with a variety of birth defects," [one of the study's authors] said.
Less than a year later, Merck and Johnson & Johnson jointly asked the FDA for permission to market an over-the-counter statin. One of the concerns about the proposal was the risk to pregnant women. USA Today reported:
The FDA classifies Mevacor and other statins as pregnancy category X, which means they are not supposed to be taken by pregnant women. Not only have category X drugs been linked to fetal abnormalities in animal or human studies, but the FDA also has declared that the benefits of taking them do not outweigh potential risks.
According to the same article, Merck made a disturbing admission:
"Of course, there will be women who take it off-label," acknowledges Merck executive Edwin Hemwall, referring to the use of non-prescription Mevacor by women under 55.
And what could prompt women to use statins during pregnancy against recommendations? Certainly a news article declaring that statins might prevent the need for caesarean sections and their associated complications could prompt some women to do so.
So what ground-breaking research made these Liverpool researchers so confident that taking drugs associated with twenty times the normal rate of major birth defects during pregnancy might be a good idea that they put out a press release declaring this confidence to the public before any trials were even under way?
Well, according to the article:
Tests have already shown that raising levels of cholesterol interferes with womb tissue's ability to contract.
Really. Raising levels of cholesterol. You might wonder how they accomplished that. Did they use cholesterol-raising drugs? I don't know of any drugs that do that. Did they use egg yolks, or the dreaded dietary villain -- gasp -- saturated fats?
No, the story is quite different.
The apparent basis for this ridiculous statin cheerleading is a 2004 study published by researchers from the University of Liverpool in the American Journal of Physiology -- Cell Physiology entitled "Increased cholesterol decreases uterine activity: functional effects of cholesterol alteration in pregnant rat myometrium."
Rather than feeding anything to pregnant women or pregnant rats, the researchers took pregnant rats and killed them. So the first thing we can say is that statins might help you deliver a baby if your doctor kills you first.
Then they extracted the uterine tissue and either extracted cholesterol from it with a chemical solvent called methyl beta-cyclodextrin, or enriched it either with cholesterol mixed with this solvent or with LDL (which they didn't measure for oxidation prior to use). Then they added drugs to induce contraction under either cholesterol-depleted or cholesterol-enriched conditions, and found that contraction was greater under cholesterol-depleted conditions.
So now we know that -- wait, what is it we know?
Well, quite clearly, we don't know anything that we can have any confidence has any physiological relevance at all. That is, except the fact that statins cause birth defects in animals, and they increase the rate of birth defects in humans by nearly twenty times, primarily by causing severe defects of the central nervous system and limb deformities.
To add to that, we also know that the vast majority of humans conceived with Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome (SLOS), a genetic inability to synthesize enough cholesterol, die of spontaneous abortion in the first 16 weeks of gestation. Those who live long enough to be born suffer from mental retardation, autism, facial and skeletal malformations, visual dysfunctions and failure to thrive.
Statins for pregnant women? I don't think so.
Article written by Chris Masterjohn
Chris Masterjohn, has a blog blog called “The Daily Lipid”. He writes about fats, cholesterol and health. Chris is pursuing a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology and is a knowledgeable contemporary writer about cardiovascular health.