An old but worthwhile article by Duff Wilson, March 30, 2010 in the The New York Times “Risks Seen in Cholesterol Drug Use in Healthy People” highlights yet again the fatal flaws we have in promoting cholesterol lowering drugs.
The study Duff Wilson reports on found a 55 percent reduction in heart attacks, 48 percent reduction in stroke, and a 45 percent reduction in angioplasty bypass surgery. Sounds good doesn’t it? Unfortunately it is another example of statin statistics where they are not giving you all the real information and what they are giving you is designed to mislead everyone (especially doctors who don’t know how to read stats).
The actual rate of heart attacks was only 0.37 percent, or 68 patients out of 8,901 who took the placebo (a sugar pill). Those who took the statin (Crestor) dropped to 0.17 percent, or 31 patients. That is a 55 percent relative risk reduction but only 0.2 percentage real (or absolute) risk reduction — or 2 people out of 1,000. That is 500 people need to be treated with the statin for a year to avoid one usually survivable heart attack. Doesn’t sound so good any more does it? The stroke numbers were similar. This is considered statistically significant but nowhere near clinically significant and well below the real reduction of 50% people expect to get from a drug. In fact 2500 times less than what the public expect. The most ridiculous part of all this is that 7 grams of almonds will give 2-4 times the benefit of the drug. At $3.50 a pill, to prescribe the statin for 500 people for a year would be $638,000 to prevent one heart attack. At that price you could have free almonds for everyone, gym membership and personal coaching thrown in for a year. My option of course would not only reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke a lot more but also reduce all chronic illness and save hundreds of lives out of 500 people. Where has all the common sense gone.
If you want the full article go to http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/business/31statins.html
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