Volume11, Issue 18 February 28, 2014
Statins fail to stop plaque buildup,
but this simple nutrient does
Even after years of writing about the cholesterol fraud going on in this country, I still get letters from readers who are taking statins and other drugs to lower cholesterol. Well, we have a new study showing that lowering cholesterol with petrochemicals does, indeed, lower your cholesterol, and even that "bad" guy LDL cholesterol. But even with these numbers lower, they fail to stop the main problem with cholesterol - plaque buildup. Worse (for Pharma), a dirt cheap vitamin does reverse the blockage!

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Researchers enrolled 363 people with either heart disease or a high risk for it. They had been taking statins for six years. They gave half of them Niaspsan (a long-acting form of niacin). They gave the other half Zetia. This drug blocks cholesterol absorption in your gut. It particularly lowers the LDL cholesterol.

After just 14 months on the study, the researchers pulled the plug. In that short amount of time, the researchers found the Niaspan group was doing that much better. Zetia did lower cholesterol as expected. But it had no effect on reducing plaque buildup at all! On the other hand, Niaspan shrank plaque buildup by 2% in that short period of time, and the reduction in the obstruction was significant! Furthermore, in the 160 people taking Niaspan, only two people died of heart attacks or related complications. Nine of the 165 on Zetia died of heart deaths! That computes to you having four-and-a-half times the rate/risk of death. How's that for a reward for taking the expensive petrochemical compared to the vitamin?

Is it any wonder that "health care" costs are going through the roof and impossible to restrain? Zetia has sales of over $1.5 billion in the U.S. alone. Its cousin, Vytorin, sold also by Merck, has over $2 billion in sales. That's over $3.5 billion in sales of worthless chemicals. Last year, Vytorin was found no more effective than just a statin alone. In August 2009, Merck and its marketing partner, Shering-Plough Corp, had to ante up $41.5 million in lawsuits for delaying that study in fear that the results would hurt sales.

Now regarding statins alone, let's see what Dr. Jerome Hoffman, professor of clinical medicine at UCLA had to say in Business Week. There is a statistic called the number needed to treat (or NNT) that reflects the number of people you have to treat to get an effect. Based on Pfizer's claims regarding its blockbuster drug, Lipitor, Dr. Hoffman said: "For every 100 people in the [Lipitor] trial, which lasted 3 1/3 years, three people on placebos and two people on Lipitor had heart attacks. The difference credited to the drug? One fewer heart attack per 100 people. So to spare one person a heart attack, 100 people had to take Lipitor for more than three years. The other 99 got no measurable benefit. Or to put it in terms of a little-known but useful statistic, the number needed to treat (or NNT) for one person to benefit is 100."

Well hold on. That's just reflective of one clinical trial involving several hundred or a few thousand high-risk people, not millions of people in the real world currently stuffing down the snake oil. According to Business Week, "Several recent scientific papers peg the NNT for statins at 250 and up for lower-risk patients, even if they take it for five years or more." Whoa, that means that if you are a person at average risk of heart disease, you would need to take the chemical for five years just to lower your risk by 0.4%. And that negligible reduction in heart attack disease risk could be way overshadowed by the development of heart failure, liver problems, muscle disease, and other all-cause mortality, at a price tag of over $1,000 per year.

Bottom line: If you haven't already, forget the cholesterol scam. Heart disease has more to do with how your body handles its cholesterol than the raw numbers. And, if you must take something to lower a familial high-cholesterol problem, start with niacin. If that doesn't work well enough, try Advanced Cholesterol Formula. And if you need a little extra work, try red yeast rice. These don't just lower your cholesterol, they also lower all-cause morbidity (deaths) as well.

One final note: Remember that rising levels of cholesterol with age might be your body's way of offsetting lower hormones or dealing with inflammation. Sledge hammer (drug) reductions could reduce your sex and steroid hormones (made from cholesterol) and allow inflammation to flourish. So skip the drugs. Stick with a healthy diet and inexpensive supplements.


NEJM online 11, 16, 09; http://www.businessweek.com, 1-17-08.

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