The four reasons the papers are getting the Statin story wrong again


Friday 10th Mary 2013 

  • Find out whether some of Bertie Bassetts finest could save your life!

  • We are all being conned yet again by stories about statins and cancer

  • A simple solution to deal with false statin PR – it’s all in a spell check

Amazing news!

Green Jelly Babies have been found to help hair re-grow.

But that’s not all...

...Scientists working in the darkened caves of Bumfluff University in Arizona have made a breakthrough in the fight against dandruff using these inexpensive sweets...

...Well, if the Daily Express can trumpet a headline that ‘Statins Slash Risk Of Cancer’ surely I can be allowed to make my own joke stories up as well!

Last Friday I choked on my porridge as I read that a bunch of researchers in America had discovered that patients taking statins had lowered risk of developing prostate cancer.

The Daily Express delighted in the story, almost like it was about them – or that they stood to profit from it (surely not!)

The online story has been tamed down a bit with the headline ‘Cholesterol drug slashes prostate cancer deaths’, but still carried the first line of the printed story which I think at best is misleading – at worst is a con.

‘Pills taken by millions to beat heart disease are also a powerful weapon against cancer, research has found.’

Ok let’s take this statement a bit at a time shall we...

The four reasons why the Daily Express writers are getting it wrong

1) ‘Pills taken by millions’. It is true that the rise in statin use has been significant, based upon hashed research, poor management by the central health advisors and huge marketing and PR campaigns.

Statins look like the answer to the obesity and cardiovascular crisis for the average man/woman in the street.

‘Take this pill once a day and it will counteract the piles of doughnuts, fast food burgers and sweetened drinks that you stuff into your face.’  That’s what we want to hear isn’t it?

A simple solution to being healthy, and one that our GP’s are more than happy to give us, not because they do so purely for our health benefit, but because it pays them to do so.

Our national health scheme financially rewards GP’s for contributing to heart programmes and diabetes control through prescribing these types of drugs.

Such incentives tend to railroad healthcare down the route of rewards for the big pharmaceutical companies, and may not be in the best interests of the patients.

This is because millions who are taking the pills are also at risk of major complications such as kidney and liver failure, muscle and joint pain and disturbed mental capacity – to name but a few.

2) ‘To beat heart disease’. This is a really interesting one because to a large extent it is based upon medical myth rather than actual evidence.

I know you’re doctor will be telling you otherwise but aggressively lowering cholesterol in the way that statins do hasn’t ever been shown to affect the way our hearts and cardiovascular systems work.

There is even a growing lobby who question whether cholesterol lowering strategies on a national scale make any impact on the levels of heart disease at all.

Just this morning I came across a piece which says; People with high cholesterol tend to live longer AND People with heart disease tend to have low levels of cholesterol.

If that is the case it would blow the entire statin story out of the water.

3) ‘Powerful weapon against cancer’. A real eye grabber isn’t it?

From that statement alone you would be forgiven in thinking that Pfizer, Glaxo Smith Kline and the other big pharma companies were our saviours.

Their drugs (which by the way they made an estimated $29billion profit from in the US alone last year) were going to combat breast cancer in women, colorectal cancer in men, lung cancer in smokers and leukaemia in children – which would indeed make them a ‘powerful weapon’.

But as it happens it looks like they MIGHT have an effect on incidence of prostate cancer.

That doesn’t make them a ‘powerful weapon’ in any fight, it makes them a damp cap gun pop in a skirmish!

4) ‘Research has found’. Oh has it indeed?

Well on the face of it this paper(1), which was an early view online article rather than a fully published study, concludes that ‘Statin use begun before prostate cancer (PCa) diagnosis was unrelated to PCa recurrence/progression but was associated with a decrease in risk of prostate cancer specific mortality.’

But you need to dig a bit deeper into it than just reading the abstract conclusion – or taking the PR companies e-mail as the truth; once again the lazy journalist strikes.

The study used 1,001 patients diagnosed with prostate cancer and found that 289 were ever users of statins (please note this means that they weren’t regular users just that they had once used them).

Without consideration of any other aspect of their lifestyles, sexual health or genetic heritage the team concluded that the statins alone were responsible for reducing the risk of dying from prostate cancer.

Anyone else see an issue with that conclusion?

Perhaps even more interesting was that the lead researcher used exactly the same patients for a study she published back in 2008(2) – interestingly her findings at the time were slightly different...

... ‘Although statin use was not associated with overall prostate cancer risk, the finding of an increased risk associated with statin use among obese men, particularly use for extended durations, warrants further investigation.‘

Not such a good result for statins in that one – I wonder who persuaded her to review her findings and republish her material with a different spin on it?

The honest way forwards

I have pondered long and hard how to get the world to wake up to the statin con trick – for that is what I believe it to be.

To clarify that statement I do not think that any GP would put you onto a drug that they thought would harm you – merely that the information they are fed about it is fatally flawed.

In the wee small hours I have contemplated on-line petitions to Parliament, banner and T-shirt campaigns outside GP surgeries and even yours truly in a ‘Pussy Riot’ style attack on the sanctity of the House of Commons.

But in a more rational moment I think I have the answer.

Whenever statins appear in the media they have to be spelt as $tatins – even in the Daily Express.

That should do it.

Yours, as always


P.S. More about statins in the Archive or a natural alternative here



(1) Geybel
(2) s, M. S., Wright, J. L., Holt, S. K., Kolb, S., Feng, Z. and Stanford, J. L. (2013), Statin Use in Relation to Prostate Cancer Outcomes in a Population-based Patient Cohort Study. Prostate. doi: 10.1002/pros.22671
(2) Agalliu, I., Salinas, C. A., Hansten, P. D., Ostrander, E. A., & Stanford, J. L. (2008). Statin use and risk of prostate cancer: results from a population-based epidemiologic study. American journal of epidemiology, 168(3), 250-260.













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