The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Pushing Statins

Dec 9, 2013

On November 12, two major health organizations issued new cholesterol guidelines that essentially declared that 30 to 40 million healthy people should immediately start taking statins. Stains are pills that reduce cholesterol levels by blocking cholesterol production in the liver.

Under the old guidelines, patients diagnosed to have more than a 20 percent risk of heart attack are instructed to take cholesterol-lowering drugs. There are currently 36 million people in the U.S. who have such risk. Under their new guidelines, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association lower the threshold for risk. So almost twice as many people are considered at risk and in need of these drugs.

However, for many scientists and medical doctors, taking statins under these new guidelines provides dubious health benefits. For example, research from Harvard University scientists showed that “Statins are effective for people with known heart disease. But for people who have less than a 20 percent risk of getting heart disease in the next 10 years, statins not only fail to reduce the risk of death, but also fail even to reduce the risk of serious illness.” This research also suggested that there are side effects to healthy people taking statins, “including muscle pain or weakness, decreased cognitive function, increased risk of diabetes (especially for women), cataracts or sexual dysfunction.”.

According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of heart disease is caused by smoking, lack of exercise, an unhealthy diet and other lifestyle factors. Thus, for example, walking an extra 10 minutes a day and having a healthy diet can also reduce cholesterol levels.

But drug companies cannot make money from people walking or eating healthier foods. In 2010 patients spent more than 21 billion dollars on cholesterol-lowering medications. The more people are shoveled into the use of these drugs, the happier these companies are. Indeed, after the guidelines were announced, AstraZeneca, which manufactures a statin called Crestor, said they were “pleased” with the new recommendations.

So, taking statins may provide dubious health benefits to healthy people. But these drugs assuredly supply healthy profits to the pharmaceutical industry!