Will statins really help us win the war against stress?
As soon as the book The End of Illness hit the New York Times Bestseller list, I was bombarded with questions about the value of statins to combat stress. In the book, author and medical doctor David Agus explores the supposed benefits of statins and suggests that everybody can use the drug as preventive medicine to help reduce stress.
My immediate concern about Agus’ claims was that it often takes many years to learn about all the harmful side effects of pharmaceuticals and we are still in that learning stage for statins.
Case in point, though Agus’ book boasting about the positive contribution of statins for stress was released to the public on January 17, 2012, approximately 40 days later Reuters ran a story warning, “FDA adds diabetes, memory loss warnings to statins.” The article also reports that widely used cholesterol lowering statins such as Lipitor may raise levels of blood sugar and cause memory loss.
I don’t know about everybody else, but I most certainly see quite a downside to losing my memory and becoming susceptible to diabetes. Add to this the other known possible side effects such as muscle pain and damage, rashes and flushing, and liver damage, and the glamorous promises of taking statins for stress begin to lose some of their glitter.
If statins can be so harmful to us, why haven’t we heard more about it? The answer can be found in the excessive revenue being taken in by the pharmaceutical companies. The statin drug atorvastatin marketed by Pfizer under the name of Lipitor became the best-selling pharmaceutical of all time with over $7.4 billion in annual sales by 2002 and it is still pulling in a hefty sum with $9.6 billion in sales during 2011 alone. In addition, the 2012 Reuters article we quoted earlier tells us, “Lipitor, which became available late last year in generic form as atorvastatin, is the world’s all-time biggest selling prescription medicine with cumulative sales in excess of $130 billion … Last year, more than 20 million Americans were taking some form of statin, according to IMS Health.”
Take into consideration that in 2011, worldwide income from Lipitor was “approximately 14% of total Pfizer revenues.” And now other pharmaceutical companies have their statin brands as well. With companies that are focused on the bottom line, it is not too difficult to understand how they might react to news that statins might be harmful. Can we expect them to immediately inform the public of the dangers and offer a safe alternative? Not if you’re a large successful pharmaceutical company with billions banking on a drug where any upset is liable to result in a substantial loss of income and an immediate plunge in stock value.
Instead, you should logically expect pharmaceutical companies to bring out the big guns and suddenly produce super credible experts. We can see this process so skillfully in play within the Reuter’s article where Steven Nissen, chief of cardiology at Cleveland Clinic, counters, “These are nuances, tiny little tweaks to the label, and the bigger picture doesn’t change. There are few drugs that have saved as many lives as statins and we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater here.”
Yes, of course, saving lives is extremely important. Nevertheless, what these good doctors fail to mention is the extensive amount of research clearly proving that nutrition and lifestyle changes can fix the problem and save lives, all without the downside of harmful side effects that come with using statins for stress or other conditions.
You may be wondering, is it all about the money? My personal experience in running a successful medical practice suggests that the answer is “Yes.” Doctors wrestle with high overhead (including huge medical malpractice insurance fees and the risk of being sued) and often are overwhelmed with debt from student loans. So, if a patient has high blood pressure, the “standard of care” is a prescription for a statin. It’s quick, it’s easy (takes no longer than five minutes to see the patient) and offers protection from medical malpractice suits.
The physician just goes along with the program because everybody else is, probably not giving much thought to any of it. Having a conversation with the patient about making changes in lifestyle and diet takes more time, is not as lucrative (since they can bill more for prescribing) and would unfortunately leave the doctor wide open for lawsuits due to breaching the perimeters of acceptable normal treatment.
Not fair? True. But the reality of the situation is that we as patients need to educate ourselves on how to stay healthy. And why wouldn’t we? Who has a bigger vested interest in our health (and the health of our family) then us?
With this in mind, I urge you to invest a little over an hour watching the latest nutritional research from NutritionFacts.org, “Uprooting the Leading Causes of Death” for easy, safe solutions for the common killer illnesses. It’s free and I promise you won’t get a doctor bill.
I hope this blog about statins and stress has left you with some helpful information and facts to ponder. You will also find more quick, easy (and yummy) healthy suggestions on my website WinningStress.com.
Wishing you even more health, happiness and prosperity without all the stress.
 Berkrot , Bill and Ransdell Pierson. “FDA adds diabetes, memory loss warnings to statins.” February 28, 2012. reuters.com/article/2012/02/28/us-fda-statins-idUSTRE81R1O220120228
 Simons, John. “The $10 billion pill.” Fortune magazine. January 20, 2003. http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2003/01/20/335643/; Pfizer 2011 Annual Report, p. 5. pfizer.com/files/annualreport/2011/financial/financial2011.pdf.
 Pfizer 2011 Annual Report, p. 5. pfizer.com/files/annualreport/2011/financial/financial2011.pdf.