by Thomas D. Meade, M.D.
How many seniors with heart disease are told that statins may cause shortness of breath or worsen their heart failure? Probably very few.
Most would be astonished to think their cardiologist would prescribe a drug that could worsen their condition, but that is exactly what was reported at the November 2009 CHEST - the national meeting of chest physicians.
In addition to this information, what if your physician told you there are other possible side effects including memory loss, muscle and joint pain, liver damage death from muscle necrosis, decreased libido and testosterone inhibition, and many of these drugs have not been proven to decrease your chance of death from fatal heart attacks or strokes?
What if they told your chance of worsening nerve pain (peripheral neuropathy from diabetes or other causes), fibromyalgia pain, spinal stenosis and possibly lymphedema exists from taking statins?
How about if you were told that after 30 years of taking these powerful medications your lifespan may not increase one day or in a best case scenario a few months. How about if they told you the data on statins in women or men without heart disease is extremely weak or nonexistent? How many patients would still pay for these expensive drugs?
How many patients are on Crestor® or Zetia® that are not told what the package insert states? Let me help you..... On the CRESTOR® package safety information, it states, ‘CRESTOR® has not been approved to prevent heart, disease, heart attacks, or strokes'. One might ask why am I taking this? Ask your prescribing physician.
On the Zetia® patient product information it states, ‘ ....ZETIA® has not been shown to prevent heart disease or heart attacks.' Chances are CRESTOR® and ZETIA® patients are hearing this information for the first time, yet it is dispensed with the package insert, but rarely emphasized by the prescribing physician.
This is not to say there isn't a role for statins, but certainly it is far less and at a much lower dose than is being recommended today. It is now being recognized that the major benefit of statins lies in a recently discovered anti-inflammatory effect and not so much, if at all from the cholesterol lowering effect.
However, since inflammation is much harder to quantify and track, the quantity of statins sold and the profitability would not nearly approach that of recommending them for their cholesterol blocking effect.
Additionally, there are many other less expensive ways to get anti-inflammatory benefits both naturally with anti inflammatory foods such as berries, omega-3 fatty acids, olive oil, fresh fish, certain spices including ginger, curcumin, and even the lowest dose of aspirin.
I always believed there should be something in medicine similar to the financial world's ‘Truth in Lending', well-known to any homeowner who has finalized a mortgage and finds out that their 5% or 6% rate quote is really significantly higher due to add on closing expenses and fees. This information is not provided up front but usually after walking down the buyer's pathway a bit.
Now most patients would crumple up the prescription and leave the office, deciding the risks are not worth the benefits. Some may not, but the ‘Truth in Medicine' approach would at least level the playing field and not shower the patients with one sided information from direct to consumer TV advertisements and little information on the side effects from hurried and overworked but well meaning physicians.
Thomas D. Meade, M.D.
Dr. Tom Meade serves as The Senior Partner of OAA Orthopaedic Specialists.
He co-developed the 300,000 sq. ft. Integrated Health Campus, a landmark national showcase medical facility.
He also hosts two educational cable TV programs, "Real Life in the OR" and "Inside Medicine." ( www.ssptv.com)