Part 1: My Spirit is Broken: Will the New Statin Guidelines Do More Harm Than Good?

A $29-billion-dollar-a-year industry

By —— Bio and Archives--August 11, 2014

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Part 1: A $29-billion-dollar-a-year industry
Part 2: The selling of a disease
Part 3: The statinization of society
“You use them or you die.”

This is what a doctor told Sulette Brown, a psychotherapist from Oklahoma, when she balked at taking statins, after she’d been rushed to the emergency room for a heart attack. Since that night, her life has changed in ways she could not have imagined.


Statins block the synthesis of cholesterol, a naturally-occurring substance that is found in every cell in your body. They commonly are prescribed to treat and prevent cardiovascular disease, or CVD, a condition in which the arteries are occluded by plaque which consists of (among other things) cholesterol. Two common complications of CVD are heart attack and stroke.

Prior to that night, Sulette had a practice specializing in pain management and addiction, driving back and forth between three offices and seeing clients from nine in the morning until six at night.

“I was known as the Energizer Bunny,” she recalls.

Sulette’s doctor prescribed atorvastatin, a statin marketed by Pfizer under the trade name Lipitor. “My sister said the night after the stent I was up pacing the floor with the pain. I tried to tell the doctor I hurt really bad. The doctor told her ‘No, you’re just anxious,’ and prescribed Valium.

Soon after she began taking Lipitor, Sulette began suffering severe fatigue and mood swings, two well-documented side effects of statins. “I could not stop crying. I cried at anything. I fell asleep in doctors’ offices. This was not normal for me.”

In addition, she experienced severe muscle weakness and pain. “I couldn’t stand up from a chair without using my hands to push me up. I couldn’t walk in a mall because my legs would give out. My hands were not able to grip.

“I had trouble walking from my car to my office door. Walking from the front door down the hall to my office door was so difficult. I knew then I could not work.

“My cardiologist told me ‘You don’t have pain—statins don’t do that.’

“By May I quit taking Lipitor. I thought, This is crazy. If I die, I die.”

Her son told her, “Mom, you got old right in front of me.”

Two hundred years from now, will historians read about our era and shake their heads and wonder: How could people have been so gullible as to believe that an essential, life-sustaining substance such as cholesterol was a poison, and poisons such as statins were medicines?

This question is one given new urgency by the latest American Heart Association guidelines on statins, which nearly double the number of people deemed eligible for treatment with these drugs.

It has become received wisdom that cholesterol is bad for you, and therefore a pill that blocks its synthesis must be a good thing. But matters are not that simple.

Cholesterol is an essential component of cell membranes, regulating membrane permeability, enabling the generation of the electrical gradient across the cell membrane which in turn enables nervous impulses and muscle contraction. Without cholesterol, we would not be here discussing these matters. Is it any wonder that statins have been linked to a dizzying variety of nervous and musculoskeletal side effects, including cramps, strains, sprains, dislocations, rhabdomyolysis, numbness, tingling, diminished and/or absent reflexes, suicidal tendency, aggressive reaction, agitation, irritability, anxiety, nervousness, panic reaction, amnesia, confusion, impaired concentration, disorientation, insomnia, nightmares, sleep-walking, depersonalization, abnormal thinking, hallucinations, paranoia, ALS, ALS-like syndrome, muscle pains, muscle weakness, fatigue, mood swings, and depression—as Sulette Brown found, to her sorrow?

Today statins are a 29-billion-dollar-a-year industry. Doctors Sherif Sultan and Niamh Hayes of the University College Hospital Galway write “It is unprecedented that the health care industry has inadvertently induced life-threatening nutrient deficiency in millions of otherwise healthy people.” How did we get to this point? The story of statins is a classic case of what the author Lynn Payer called “disease-mongering”—and a warning to us all.

List of Sources

1. Sulette Brown, personal interview 26 January 2014. 734-612-8899.

2. John Abramson, personal interview 6 February 2014. Harvard Medical School, Health Care Policy, 180 Longwood Avenue Boston MA 02115 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

3. Stone, N.H. et al. 2013. 2013 ACC/AHA guideline on the treatment of blood cholesterol to reduce atherosclerotic cardiovascular risk in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practical Guidelines. Circulation Published online November 12 3013 circ.ahajournals.org. Retrieved December 26 2013.

4. Corsini, A. 2006. Statin-related muscle complains: an underestimated risk. Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy 19:379-381.

5. Buettner, C. et al. 2008. Prevalence of musculoskeletal pain and statin use. Journal of General Internal Medicine 23:1182-1186.

6. Golomb, B.A. et al. 2008. Statin adverse effects. American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs 8:373-418.

7. Hippisley-Cox, J. 2010. Unintended effects of statins in men and women in England and Wales: population-based cohort study using the QResearch database. BMJ 340:c2197.

8. Bruckert, E. et al. 2005. Mild to moderate muscular symptoms with high-dosage statin therapy in hyperlipidemic patients: The PRIMO study. Cardiovascular Drugs and Therapy 19:403-414.

9. Mansi, I. et al. 2013. Statins and musculoskeletal conditions, arthropathies, and injuries. JAMA Internal Medicine 173:1-10.

10. Graham, D.J. et al. 2004. Incidence of hospitalized rhabdomyolysis in patients treated with lipid-lowering drugs. JAMA 292:2585-2590.

11. Golomb, B.A. et al. 2004. Severe irritability associated with statin cholesterol-lowering drugs. Quarterly Journal of Medicine 97:229-235.

12. Gaist, D. et al. 2002. Statins and the risk of polyneuropathy. Neurology 58:1333-1337.

13. Tatley, M. and R. Savage 2007. Psychiatric adverse reactions with statins, fibrates, and ezetimbe. Drug Safety 30:195-201.

14. Meethal, S.V. and C.S. Atwood 2012. Lactate dyscrasia: a novel explanation for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Neurobiology of Aging 33:569-581.

15. Edwards, I.R. et al. 2007. Statins, neuromuscular degenerative disease, and an amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-like syndrome. Drug Safety 30:515-525.

16. Golomb, B.A. 2009. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-like conditions in possible association with cholesterol-lowering drugs. Drug Safety 32:649-661.

17. Zhang, H. et al. 2013. Discontinuation of statins in routine care settings. Annals of Internal Medicine 158:527-535.

18. Alter, D. 2013. “Drug stocks to buy: New statin guidelines are a shot in the arm.” Money Morning: Your Daily Map to Financial Freedom November 15 2013.

19. Sultan, S. and N. Hayes 2013. The ugly side of statins: a systematic appraisal of contemporary un-known unknowns. Open Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolic Disease 3:179-185.

20. Payer, L. 1992. Disease Mongers: How Doctors, Drug Companies, and Insurers are Making You Feel Sick. John Wiley and Sons.


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Patrick D Hahn -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Patrick D Hahn is an Affiliate Professor of Biology at Loyola University Maryland and a free-lance writer. His writing has also appeared in Biology-Online, Loyola Magazine,Popular Archaeology, Natural News,Canada Free Press, and the Baltimore Sun.

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