Some of you may have noticed a lack of posts from me this week well I have a pretty good reason. My 86-year old father underwent triple-bypass surgery due to three 90%+ clogged arteries. Since this makes two parents out of two having this dangerous procedure, I wanted to research heart disease a bit. Then I saw an article in Business Week magazine while walking through the SeaTac Airport that made me smile as it was saying what I have been saying for years, which is, statin drugs really don’t prevent heart disease.
Aside from the Vytorin®/Zetia® debacle, the whole idea of lowering cholesterol (LDL especially) to prevent heart disease is nothing less than a scam. In my upcoming book, Achieving Victory Over a Toxic World, I devote a few pages on the medical communities fascination with LDL and heart disease and how bogus the idea is. Well, the evidence is coming in that I was indeed right, as were a number of researchers I mentioned like Dr. Ufe Ravnskov and Dr. John Abramson.
When I make my comments at lectures around the world about the lack of a real link between LDL cholesterol and heart disease I get mixed reactions. Knowledgeable health care practitioners nod in agreement with big smiles; others grimace with a backdrop of anger and disbelief. Individuals look mystified, bewildered and highly skeptical. How can a guy with a doctorate in business be right when so many physicians who have studied heart disease be wrong? If you stay on the side that thinks statin drugs and lowering cholesterol are proven preventive treatments for coronary heart disease after reading this three-part blog, either you are in a major state of denial or you are on the payroll of a pharmaceutical company that is benefiting from the sale of these ill-conceived toxins.
An important concept to understand is a number called the NNT (Number Needed to Treat). This number tells us the number of people that must take a drug for one person to benefit. If a drug is perfect, than that number should be one, which means for every one person who takes the drug, one person will benefit from it and prevent or successfully treat the disease or syndrome.
For people taking an antibiotic cocktail to kill off the bacterium (H pylorii) that causes ulcers, the NNT is 1.1, which is pretty darn good. For Lipitor®, whose sales last year for Pfizer was about 13 billion dollars, the NNT is between 16-23 for people who have had a heart attack or have definitive signs of heart disease. Not horrible, but an ok number.
So what does that number mean? To prevent one person having a heart event 16-23 people need to be taking the drug. To prevent a death, 48 people would have to take the drug for 5 years to save one life. But we are saving lives would (and is) the industry answer. Guess what? Change your lifestyle just a little bit (eat better, exercise more, stop smoking, etc) and you’ll do much better than that and you won’t have any nasty side effects.
For those of you with a risk factor like high blood pressure and no existing heart disease or heart attack history, the NNT goes to 75-200. If you have no risk factor except what the medical community would deem “high” cholesterol (over 220 mg/dl) the NNT is a ridiculous 500+ as there is no measurable reduction in deaths or serious events. Very little potential benefit, lots of profits for the pharmaceutical industry.
What about Zetia®? The NNT is an astounding 1000+. It is basically worthless. No benefits seen at all. The same can be said for the diabetes drug Avandia® which does lower blood glucose, but does not prevent any disease caused by diabetes.
“Lipitor® reduces the risk of heart attack by 36%… in patients with multiple risk factors for heart disease.” This is what Dr. Jarvik claims (as does Pfizer) in that insipid ad he appears on TV. Now let’s talk about the real numbers. In the clinical trial he mentions, three percent (3%) of the people taking placebo had a heart attack while two percent (2%) of the people taking Lipitor® had a heart attack. So, 99 people had to take Lipitor® for five years with no benefit for one person to gain a benefit over placebo to prevent a heart attack. I don’t know about you, but that isn’t a 36% improvement. Statistics lie when put into the hands of people with an agenda, especially a multi-billion dollar one.
Come back on Monday to find out how this is only the tip of the iceberg. On Tuesday I’ll be discussing the laboratory tests necessary to help prevent heart disease and help improve your overall cardiac health.