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'No scientific evidence' for the use of statins, experts claim

The push for statins cannot be described as evidence based until the raw data surrounding its trials is made public, a group of leading experts have claimed.

The experts, including cardiologist Dr. Aseem Malhotra and vascular surgeon Professor Sherif Sultan, said the claim that lowering cholesterol by 2mmol/L confers a benefit is based on ‘projections, not fact.’

The authors of the editorial in the Prescriber claims that 'gross exaggeration' of benefits and downplaying of side-effects has 'likely led to the overmedication of millions of people across the world'.

It follows a meta-analysis in the Lancet that claimed that for every 10,000 people taking the equivalent of atorvastatin 40mg daily - lowering LDL cholesterol by about 2 mmol/L or 77 mg/dL-  for five years, 500 would be spared a first ever CV event. 

But the editorial in the Prescriber said: ‘The clinical studies included in the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ (CTT) meta-analysis upon which this claim is based did not achieve even half that level of cholesterol reduction in people whose risk of heart attack or stroke is less than 20% over the next five years. So there is no scientific evidence for the magnitude of benefit of 2mmol/L reduction in a low-risk population.'

They added: 'The time is long past for the underlying data to be made available for independent analysis, so the public can receive the full benefit of medical science regarding statins and other cholesterol-lowering medication.

‘In conclusion, we believe that unless access to the raw clinical trial data is released, any claims about the true efficacy and harms of statins cannot be considered to be evidence based.’

Dr Malhotra said: ‘Decades of misinformation on cholesterol and the gross exaggeration of statin benefits with downplaying of side effects has likely led to the overmedication of millions of people across the world.'

Professor Iona Heath, former president of the RCGP, said: ‘The continuing controversy into the usefulness of statins risks undermining public trust in biomedical science. The controversy will only be resolved if all the existing research data is made widely available for review by genuinely independent researchers.’

Readers' comments (12)

  • No scientific evidence for the use of statins, experts claim
    No use for experts, Trump claims
    Never been a better time to be a GP, RCGP claims
    GPs ideally placed, Stevens claims
    statins reduce deaths from CVD, fact

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  • But is the reduction (small as it is) related to cholesterol levels??

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  • @3:25 "statins reduce deaths from CVD, fact"

    This is true. But even so there are plenty of unanswered questions:

    What is the true NNT in a low risk population?

    What are the harms of transforming healthy people into "patients"?

    Do patients understand the statistics relevant to treatment decisions in a low risk population? Do doctors?

    Are the medical resources expended on assessing and following up low risk populations for statins proportionate to the likely benefits?

    etc etc.

    This situation is far from black and white.

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  • Another cost cutting measure...

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  • 'Statins ‘the single most ineffective drug ever invented’. Indeed, in my view the biggest ever con...

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  • Lack of transparancy is equal to dodgyness. Why wont they publish the numbers so expets can have a good look at them? Oh sooooo fishy!

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  • Coming full circle then! evidence, then doubts, more leaning towards side effects, now singing no evidence! Are the experts playing into the hands of lobbyists to promote, then slow down and stall!
    God save the patients. We will have our task cut out for tomorrow's consultation yet again! U turn by us depending on what these "experts" say, more arguments with patients, less trust on GPs.

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  • Mr Mephisto

    "Lies, damned lies, and medical statistics"

    Very simple really.

    Budding cardiologist bursting with career ambition wants to carry out some "ground breaking research" not in the interests of medical science or for the benefit of mankind but purely in his own "self-interest".

    Budding cardiologist needs money to set up his wonderful study to build his name and create his empire.

    Drug company comes along with bag of cash to fund "ground-breaking research" as long as the results match their marketing requirements and allow them to sell lorry loads of pills.

    Budding cardiologist made a Professor for said "ground-breaking study".

    Professor travels the world on back of "ground-breaking study".

    Professor makes himself rich and influential on back of "ground-breaking study".

    Professor appointed to NICE to tell everyone that they need to prescribe this new wonder drug to save them from something that may never happen to them.

    Now that the Professor has "NICE Guidelines" added to his CV he can charge even more money for talks on how he saved the world.

    Now that he is rich and famous "The Professor" starts to look "sexy" to the politicians and is a "must have" token “figurehead” to advise them on how to save the population and where the government should waste all of that lovely cash so they don't waste it on real medicine like General Practice.

    Everyone wins except the public who get scr*wed over as always.

    The sad thing is that this pattern gets repeated again and again with these so called academics peddling bad science and bad drugs making themselves “great”, “good”, and rich in the process.

    I personally could not live with the shame.

    Their piety chokes me.

    Does anyone remember the 4S study or WOSCOPS.

    How about an acronym competition.

    I will start it off


    How’s about that for 4S’s then

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  • Surely it is not just the science about efficacy that is dodgy. It is the growing evidence of significant side effects. These now include liver dysfunction, kidney failure, muscle weakness, cataracts, diabetes and dementia. This concerns a drug that patients have been told for decades is 'entirely safe', that 'everyone should be taking'! Millions are now taking the drug. Pharma has made billions. And have doctors been prescribing this drug on the basis of a hoax? There can surely be only two two responses. One, to admit there is a problem and investigate what has happened, openly and honestly. The other is to do what Pharma usually does, to pay for more research that proves Statins are effective, and entirely safe, and to bury the issue. What worries me is whether patients are going to get to know, and who is going to tell them.

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  • Primum non nocere. The beardy old Greek was right(albeit immortalised in Latin).

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