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Study Finds That Millions Who Take Statins May Not Need Them

orange statin pills

A new study has determined that millions of people currently taking widely prescribed statin drugs to prevent heart disease may not need them. Statins, which are sold under brand names like Lipitor, Crestor, and Zocor, are the most commonly prescribed drugs in the United States. They are used to lower LDL cholesterol, a primary driver of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death among Americans.

Currently, doctors prescribe the drugs using Pooled Cohort Equations (PCE) based on 2013 guidelines by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology to estimate the risk for heart disease. PCEs are algorithms used to estimate a person’s 10-year risk of cardiovascular events based on age, sex, race, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and diabetes status.1 2 3

Tim Anderson, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh and the study’s lead author, analyzed the potential impact of the American Heart Association’s new heart disease risk calculator, PREVENT. Dr. Anderson and his colleagues examined data from 3,785 adults aged 40 to 75 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and compared estimates from PREVENT to the 2013 guidelines.

The study found notable disparities between the PCE and PREVENT estimates, resulting in a significant reduction in the number of individuals eligible for statin therapy. The study also identified a new subset of the population eligible for treatment who were not previously considered. 1 3

About 40 Percent Fewer Americans Would Qualify for Statins According to New Heart Disease Risk Calculator

The new PREVENT calculator incorporates additional risk factors, such as kidney disease, blood sugar control (hemoglobin A1C), and obesity, to more accurately assess heart disease risk. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that the 10-year risk of developing heart disease with PREVENT was about half that estimated by previous tools. Consequently, about 40 percent fewer people would meet the criteria for a statin prescription, suggesting that up to four million Americans currently taking statins for primary prevention of heart disease might not need them.1

Among other updates, the PREVENT model removes race from the calculation, replacing it with zip code as an indicator of socioeconomic status. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), socioeconomic status (SES) is essential to health outcomes. Those with lower SES tend to have poorer health, higher rates of illness and death, and lower life expectancy than those with higher SES.1 4

Statins Can Cause Cognitive Impairment, Depression and Organ Damage

In light of these findings, Anderson encourages people taking statins for primary prevention to ask their doctors if they should continue taking the medication. While he says it’s vital to preventatively treat heart disease risks before a serious medical event, the drug does carry numerous mild-to-severe side effects; these include muscle pain, headaches, sleep problems, digestive problems, cognitive impairment (e.g., memory loss, forgetfulness, amnesia, memory impairment, confusion), depression, muscle cell, kidney, and liver damage. The medication can also lead to type 2 diabetes, another risk factor for heart disease.1 5

“For patients who are right on the edge, they should know that there are other things not captured by these calculators, like family history, so it’s very important to discuss this with their physician,” Anderson said.1

Disagreement Over Updating of Statin Recommendations

Not all doctors agree with the findings that suggest a copious number of Americans are taking a drug they may not need. Robert Rosenson, MD, director of lipids and metabolism for the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, expressed concerns that the small number of participants in the study is not representative of the U.S. population. “Their main point, that fewer patients should be eligible for statins, is based on the limited numbers of people in the NHANES database,” Dr. Rosenson said. “That is alarming.”1

If PREVENT were rolled out nationwide, the number of people meeting the statin criteria would decline from 45.4 million to 28.3 million. “In other words,” the authors of the study wrote, “17.3 million adults recommended statins based on the PCEs would no longer be recommended statins based on PREVENT equations, including 4.1 million adults currently taking statins.”3

Sadiya Khan, MD, who was chair of the PREVENT development committee and a professor of cardiovascular epidemiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, says new guidance is warranted after the study findings. “Risk models don’t determine who is recommended to take statins, guidelines do,” Dr. Khan said. “I think the most important thing is the determination of when it will be recommended to initiate statins. That has not been decided yet.”3

“We need to focus on treating high risk, not high cholesterol,” said Adam M. Cohen, MD, a noninvasive cardiologist and director of the preventive cardiology and dyslipidemia program at Abington Medical Specialists in Abington, Pennsylvania. “I think these guidelines are in a lot of ways trying to say the same thing a little more practically.”3

In Trials, Statins Not Proven to Prevent Heart Disease-Related Deaths

To date, the effectiveness of statins in preventing death from heart disease is not definitively proven. Statin trials show only small differences in outcomes between users and non-users. For instance, overall death rates differed by less than 1 percent to 3.3 percent, and heart attack rates (both fatal and nonfatal) by 1.1 percent to 4.7 percent. These modest differences can appear more significant when expressed in relative terms, a technique sometimes used by pharmaceutical companies to make their products seem more effective. For example, stating that statins reduce the risk of death by 22 percent sounds more impressive than saying they lower the death rate by 3.1 percent. This can mislead people into thinking the benefits are greater than they actually are. 6

“This success profits not only the pharmaceutical industry but also all those whose finances and careers are furthered by the research and the sales,” reads an article published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) about the advent of statins. “But to what extent is it also a success for the general public? The case for statin drugs, especially for primary prevention, has not been made,” the article concludes.6

​​The global statins market size reached a staggering $15 billion in 2021 and is projected to reach $22 billion by 2032. 7


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Click here to view References:
1 Carroll L. Fewer people may need statins to prevent heart disease, new study suggests. NBC News June 11, 2024.
2 GoodRx. Drug guide. June 24, 2024.
3 Newman T. New Analysis Finds Millions of People on Statins May Not Need Them. Healthline June 12, 2024.
4 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Social determinants of health: Know what affects health. June 24, 2024.
5 Mayo Clinic Staff. Statin side effects: Weigh the benefits and risks. Mayo Clinic June 24, 2024.
6 Thompson A, Temple NJ. The case for statins: has it really been made? J R Soc Med October 2004; 97(10): 461-4.
7 Statins Market Size To Hit US$ 22 Billion By 2032, Owing To Increasing Investments in Healthcare Sector Globally | Persistence Market Research. Yahoo Finance Mar. 2, 2023.

8 Responses

  1. No one needs a statin since cholesterol has virtually nothing to do with heart attacks or heart problems. We have been scammed again.

  2. This is the power of the AMA, FDA and drug companies. Many years go by during which time people express health concerns for which no one can tag a cause. Think about the number of drugs, inoculations and test people have been given. It is very difficult to know what may have caused a current medical condition. In 2003 I was told to take statins. I reluctantly agreed but with the agreement that my Q10 would be tested. My cardiologist indicated that a test did not exist. I knew that one did exist. My first test pre Q10 supplementation was .07. Eight weeks later with Q10 it was 1.7. Four months later 2.4. I have taken a statin since. I recently had a CAC score that was high. After research I now supplement with a number of supplements after consultation with a cardiologist friend and added K2, Magnesium and Arterosil. I am asymptomatic, catch double header baseball games, work construction, stable BP. Oh yes, I am 71 years old.

    1. Well, I see you have been snookered. You are replacing what the statins are destroying, so you’re safe. Catching is a skill, not a form of exercise. Good you can still work construction. For now.

      I am 80 years old, have never taken a statin and never will. I take supplements anyway. My BP tends to run around 124/70. I hike. I do not take vaccines. I do not take pharmaceutical drugs. I don’t buy the hype, and I don’t support an industry that routinely does fraudulent studies and places profit over people.

  3. Three article quotes: These modest differences can appear more significant when expressed in relative terms, a technique sometimes used by pharmaceutical companies to make their products seem more effective / This can mislead people into thinking the benefits are greater than they actually are. / “This success profits not only the pharmaceutical industry but also all those whose finances and careers are furthered by the research and the sales,”

    Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas! You’d be better off drinking and smoking with those lists of side effects. Talk about people you can trust! If people don’t understand how the medical industrial complex works by now, they may also need a special pair of new glasses and a hearing aid. March on up to that counter and get your pills, the easy fix. Inject some health with a needle from a magical little glass vial. People whom go to hospitals are like tourists going to popular tourist destinations. They see you coming a mile away. Grab your wallet and hold it tight, you’re about to be had. And you know it’s coming ahead of time, but you show up anyways.

    Want to know what happens when most people are prescribed these substances and either stop taking them, reduce their recommended dose to a tenth of the suggested amount, or never take them in the first place? Nothing. Nothing happens. Life goes on. Hit the gym and stop consuming as much ultra processed foods you couch potato quasi-neo-humans. Stop being so overweight fat and lazy. Learn to cook healthy foods at home. Eat a salad, then reach for a steak off the grill, skip the unnecessary lunch. Have tea and toast or a hard boiled organic egg for breakfast instead. Merry christmas and happy new year.

  4. The author states that LDL is a primary driver of heart disease. It is probably not even a secondary driver. The primary driver is inflammation in the coronary arteries. Also, guidelines should be the last thing to determine who should get treated by any medication -GUIDELINES ARE WRITTEN BY THE PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY TO SELL DRUGS.

  5. Statins are a money making scam. I gave a lecture years ago, inviting doctors, in which I said I would prove it was all a scam. I was not challenged by anyone. I used their own often quoted studies. Later I reviewed the history of atherosclerosis and how cholesterol became the main culprit. In truth, it is omega-6 oils and not cholesterol and the trigger is inflammation. The researchers all agree on this. He is right about guidelines. Most of theses oils, called N-6 oils, are used over and over for months and by then they are well oxidized. These oxidized oils cause endothelial inflammation and this leads to atherosclerosis. Dr.Lemole has shown a connection to lymphatic obstruction as well.

  6. and don’t forget, WE HAVE VIRTUALLY NO DOCTORS NOR SCIENTISTS, AS ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES.
    AND, Recall: federal Agencies, CDC, FDA, NIH, NIDA, NIH, NIAID, NIMH, & ~a dozen more, are parts of the incredibly corrupted (& now, richest!) U.S. Dept. of HHS;
    The Congressionally appropriated (tax-payer provided) budget for U.S. Dept.of HHS (wealtH inHuman Services, about 80,000 employees?) is now $1.73 Trillion—
    nearly twice the budget for the entire military [DOD, U.S. Dept. of Defense, $0.868 Trillion], which has 3-to-4 million members.

  7. I quit taking statins after several years due to cognitive difficulties, visual auras, balance problems, lack of energy, brain fog and headaches. Doc wanted me to try a different statin but within two days the visual auras returned for a couple of days and I quit them. I’ll take my chances at 80.

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