The New Statin Guidelines: Surprisingly Inferior Compared to this

No one has ever accused me of being a friend of the statin class of drugs to lower cholesterol.

An entire eBook devoted to the side effects of statins and natural ways to lower cholesterol that do not involve statins pretty much cinches that.

Despite all the continued evidence that statin drugs are only minimally effective at saving lives, the powers-that-be are perpetually trying to jam more of them down our throats.  The latest guidelines, if interpreted loosely enough, could lead to millions more patients being eligible for statin prescriptions.

What a windfall for the drug companies at the expense of unsuspecting patients.

I will be the first to admit that statin drugs are effective at lowering cholesterol.  Quite frankly, NO ONE cares what his or her cholesterol is; we just don’t want to have a heart attack or stroke.  And we’ve been brainwashed to believe that lowering cholesterol with drugs is the way to get this done.

But it’s just not true and we’ve seen it time and time again.  At the bottom line, for the average patient, you have to treat 1,000 patients for 5 years to prevent a measly 11 heart attacks.  Eight of these unfortunate souls will develop diabetes (and will then die of a heart attack or stroke from the diabetes).

It took years for the drug companies to realize this.  Or maybe, it just took years for them to let the unsuspecting patients know that they knew that statins sucked at saving lives.  Regardless, this leaves them with a conundrum.  A multi-billion dollar engine that needs to be fed before the world wakes up to the fact that you have to treat 100 patients to prevent a single heart attack (leaving the other 99 with side effects and costs).

What would you do if you had a product that would soon have no use?

You got it—re-purpose it.

Just think if the guy who created the pet rock later marketed it as a paperweight.  He’d own a small island by now.  Or if the VHS cassette tape people could’ve later marketed the tapes as mini-storage device to hide money and valuables in bookcases…  You get the idea.

So, the latest attempt to prove value to drugs to lower cholesterol is to see if they can reverse plaguing in the arteries of your heart.  Sounds like a good idea, right?  Less plaque in your arteries would be a good indicator that the statin drugs were doing something positive for your cardiovascular health.

That’s what researchers did in this particular study.  They looked across multiple studies to see if high dose statin therapy could lead to shrinking of the plaque in the arteries of the heart regardless of what your cholesterol levels were or how much inflammation you had (as measured by CRP).  And they looked at high dosages because the side effects and costs are going to be greater so they need a stronger justification for the use of these drugs.

In other words, they are looking for a rationale to treat patients carte blanche without needing to worry about pesky reasons like high cholesterol or high inflammation.  They want to create a rationale to treat patients with high dose statins because it protects the heart, NOT because you have a risk factor that has been shown to be lowered with statins (since we saw how poorly that worked out using just total cholesterol).

They found 8 studies in all that included 1,881 who maintained or switched to 18- to 24 months of high-intensity statin therapy (rosuvastatin 40 mg or atorvastatin 80 mg) and were evaluated using coronary intravascular ultrasound to look at the plaque in the arteries of the heart.

As expected, lipids levels changed for the better.  Here’s where it gets exciting:

  • The plaque in the heart arteries dropped by 0.7%.
  • The total volume of the plaque dropped by 8.2 mm3.

For the icing on the cake, the effect was seen regardless of what the cholesterol or CRP levels were.


Before we pop the cork on the champagne bottle, let’s saunter on over across the hall to this particular study published in the same issue of the same journal.

In this much smaller study (because hundreds of billions of dollars were not at stake), researchers looked at the effects aerobic exercise on this same parameter—plaque regression.

They compared aerobic interval training (my favorite) to moderate continuous training in 36 patients who had significant coronary artery disease who were already optimal medical treatment (i.e. “fully drugged up”).

The interval training used intervals at 90% of peak heart rate and the moderate continuous training used 70% of peak heart rate) 3 times a week for 12 weeks after they had a cardiac procedure to put a stent in. Here’s what they found:

  • The necrotic core inside the plaque (that nasty, dead tissue just waiting to break off and cause a heart attack) shrunk in both exercise groups by 3.2% with the interval and 2.7% with the continuous.
  • Overall plaque was reduced by a respectable 10.7% in both groups.

Now compare the two.  Which would prefer—0.7% or 10.7% less plague ready to explode in the blood vessels of your heart?  And one was done in 3 months instead of 2 years.

While you can’t make an exact direct comparison, it is clear that exercise is far more effective in a shorter period of time, with NO side effects and no cost (outside the cost of the study).

And yet, when the time comes for your doctor to give you your options, which do you think he was told about?  The one that is going to make the drug companies untold billions but has a small effect on your blood vessels, or the more powerful one that no one is making a buck off of?

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.