The Statin Story

As I’m sure you know, statins are among the most widely prescribed drugs on the planet—exceeded in sales only by anti-depressants. Originally developed to lower cholesterol and thereby reduce the risk of heart attacks, statins have subsequently been promoted for use in a wide variety of conditions. For example, just yesterday the New York Times reported on a study that found depression was lower in people taking statins.

While that business is going on, the FDA reports that statin use increases the risk of getting diabetes. This makes perfect sense when you consider how statins work. Your liver builds cholesterol molecules by stringing together molecules of acetyl coenzyme A. Statins disrupt this process.

It turns out that acetyl coenzyme A is also used in your energy metabolism: the mitochondria in your cells break down glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids into molecules of acetyl coenzyme A that are turned into adenosine triphosphate (that is, ATP) and sent of into the cell as the little chemical power packs that supply your cells with energy.

Diabetes is a disrupted energy metabolism.

So is it really that surprising that a chemical designed to disrupt the building blocks of cholesterol also disrupts the building blocks of energy metabolism?

And, no, red yeast rice is not better because it’s “natural.” There are two reasons why. First, the active ingredient is lovastatin—that is, a statin. Second, it assumes that lowering cholesterol reduces the risk of heart disease.

As I’ve commented before, the cholesterol theory of heart disease has been discredited. So the use of statins should have dropped like a rock. But instead of withering, its use thrives.

Why is that?

Money, of course, is a factor. Drug companies have lots and continue to pound away at the use of a known quantity. There are also careers at stake. Lots of researchers have devoted themselves to the use of statins. So when one use declines, they go in search of another.

But there’s something else going on. I’ll give you an example.

While I was grocery shopping recently I struck up a conversation with a registered psychiatric nurse who works for a major HMO. Being familiar with the work we do at Your Own Health And Fitness, she described what she says to patients.

She first steps outside her official role, essentially say, “You didn’t hear this from me.” She then goes on to tell them to ditch the statins and eat good quality fats.

There’s a great institutional wind blowing statins at us. For that matter, there’s a great institutional wind blowing pharmaceuticals at us.

It’s like the insanity of nuclear power as clean energy: it must be great because it doesn’t produce greenhouse gases. But what are the other consequences?

As far as your body is concerned, a pharmaceutical such as a statin is a toxin designed to disrupt something your body is doing. It’s certain to disrupt other things your body is doing.

You don’t have to take them. Not to be too ponderous, but you have a constitutional right to control what is thrown at you as health care.

Your doctor or other health care provider might be a very nice person and you might have a lot of confidence in them and they might seem really smart, but they can be trapped in a narrative that causes harm, a story about statins that can harm your health.

You don’t need to be part of the statin story.