Truth Told - The five statin facts everyone needs to know 

Friday 30 May, 2014 


Today I want to look at the statin story but not in an hysterical and emotional way.  I’m not even going to say who is right and who is wrong, I just want to explore the facts – something that seems to have slipped through the net these past few weeks.

Last Friday I vented my spleen about how poorly the statin story has been handled; well here’s the five undisputable facts that should have been featured.

The five truthful facts about the statin story

1)  Vested interests change the story

The criticism of the articles in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) was that they misrepresented the details from earlier studies; wrongly claiming that 18-20% of statins users experienced significant side effects – Prof Collins contention was that the research team were biased in their actions.

They might have been, I have absolutely no idea who they are or how they are funded, I know they work at various Universities in the US and Canada including Harvard so I assume they are not idiots. The paper(1) they published was peer reviewed and accepted for publication in a major scientific journal, so was scrutinised correctly.

On the other hand Prof Collins and his team received £96.1 million from statin manufacturer Merck Sharp & Dohme, a prize in 2004 for his work highlighting the benefits of statins from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and has also had funding from cholesterol-lowering drug manufacturers AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck and Sanofi in other ¬studies(2).

Now given this largesse from those who stand to benefit from sales of statins, could you ever imagine Prof Collins to be unbiased? Just a question Sir.

2) Statins cause serious side effects

Despite the furore being created by the BMJ story, the truth has been overlooked. Everyone accepts statins cause significant and potentially dangerous side effects. In an interview on BBC Radio 4 last week Prof Collins suggested that the harmful effects had been overstated by 20 times, but he can’t actually justify that – and more importantly even he, the pharma puppet, can’t deny that they have serious side effects.

On the same programme the BMJ's Dr Fiona Godley said that despite minor errors in the way information was presented, there are nevertheless legitimate concerns surrounding the cholesterol-reducing drugs.

If just one person’s life is made shorter, less enjoyable or more painful by these drugs then it’s a truth incontrovertible – statins have serious and harmful side effects.

3) Statins are not the only way to lower cholesterol

levelsModern life demands easy answers, and single dose statins every day absolves the patient from sins of gluttony previously committed...

...that seems to be the rhetoric doesn’t it.

The problem is that there is so much more we need to understand about dietary fat, cholesterol in blood and the balance between HDL and LDL levels.

A programme coming to these shores called 'Fed Up' questions whether fat in diet causes risk at all, citing trials that show sugar is much more of a danger. Statins do not act on sugar in the blood so it is not in their mandarins interests to build this aspect up in the media is it?

If you want to find a natural answer to raised cholesterol levels, pre-diabetic blood sugar worries and hypertension visit this highly informative site.

4) The Ben Goldacre testimony – or the truth that newspapers are led by PR

A few months ago I wrote about headlines saying that statins were safe, relating to a study conducted by Ben Goldacre, he of Bad Science and Bad Pharma fame and fortune.

At the time I suggested that he was wrong in his assumptions and could and should do better... interestingly he answered in his blog as follows:

‘I was surprised to see a study I’m a co-author on getting some front page media play today, under the headline “Statins ‘have no side effects’”. That’s not what our paper found.

‘...we have a responsibility to try and establish good quality evidence on side effects, and in particular to nail down how far these side effects are genuinely being caused by the drugs. We certainly shouldn’t give false reassurance; but we also shouldn’t scare people into experiencing side effects; or scare them into avoiding a medication which might help them.’

It’s not the front page retraction I wanted but does prove that even those quoted as supporting statins don’t do so without caveats.

The news stories that get generated are written purely by slack journalists who don’t check their sources and are happy to pocket the benefits offered by PR companies.

5) Big bucks are at stake

When press reports start to say that ‘All over-40s should take cholesterol-busting statins, says top surgeon
(3)’ we need to realise just how much money is involved.

In the UK alone there are just over 20 million people aged 40 and over(4) and with an average cost per patient per year of £152.12 for statin treatment(5).

This would net the manufacturers just over £3billion – which is a massive amount of money just from the UK... imagine how big that is if you include all of Western Europe, Canada and the United States of America.

When you start to see the huge benefits these companies will get from a wider usage of statins you can understand why they fight so hard to hold onto their market.

Whether ethically and morally they should do so is a more heavily debated point.

Where does all this leave you?

So there you have five absolute truths. I’m not going to tell you what to think, or what decision to make about your own health, that should only be done in conjunction with your own medical advisor.

Unlike powerful media outlets, biased scientists and ghoulish PR companies my concern is that we do get to have all of the information which will allow us to make good choices.

I would also like to see the food companies brought into this debate since it is their money grabbing profiteering which drives poor nutrition levels and lead to metabolic disease – but that is for another day.

For now I hope you can absorb all of the conflicting and confusing information which will give you the confidence to ask about your options with your GP – if you would like more information about trials data for a natural alternative to statins click here

Yours, as always



(1) Abramson, J. D., Rosenberg, H. G., Jewell, N., & Wright, J. M. (2013). Should people at low risk of cardiovascular disease take a statin?. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 347.
(2)Johnston, L. (2014); Professor's research funded by multi-million drug manufacturer. Daily Express 30 March 2014
(3)McRae, F., (2014); All over-40s should take cholesterol-busting statins, says top surgeon. Daily Mail 19 May 2014
(4)Rutherford, T., (2012); Population Ageing: Statistics. House of Commons Library 2012.
(5) McConnachie, A., Walker, A., Robertson, M., Marchbank, L., Peacock, J., Packard, C. J., & Ford, I. (2013). Long-term impact on healthcare resource utilization of statin treatment, and its cost effectiveness in the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease: a record linkage study. European heart journal, eht232.


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