Statins, should I take them?

Statins, are a group of medicine that reduces cholesterol in your body. It's the most money making medicine for many pharmaceutical companies. However, I'm sure you must have come across at least one facebook "share" or a forwarded message in WhatsApp that reads "Statins are a scam", "Cholesterol is no longer dangerous" etc etc etc.

This may seem very scary. Alarming even. But before we venture into conspiracy theories, let us understand how statins work, and why doctors use them. Statins, work by blocking the enzyme HMG-CoA reductase. This enzyme is needed in the liver to make cholesterol. Cholesterol is in turn responsible for plaque formation, or in layman terms, clogging up your arteries. So in short, statins reduce cholesterol, and in turn reduces your risk of a heart attack of a stroke.

The issue arises, when new age article writers challenge these claims, and very often state that cholesterol isn't dangerous, and statins cause more problems than good when taking them. They also claim that big Pharma lies to us by hiding all the side effects of statins from the public. 

Who do you trust? What should you believe?

Let me put it this way. For all the heathcare professionals I know who work in the Government sector, all of them would put their own parents on statins if they thought it was necessary. If they had high risk of developing a cardiovascular event themselves, they would take statins themselves. These doctors don't earn a single cent more than their usual pay, no matter how much statins they prescribe.

And the reason for this, is evidence. Evidence in the medical field isn't your typical CSI evidence. Evidence in the medical field, usually points to research results. The more research carried out on more people, the stronger the evidence will be. All modern statins have impressive cardiovascular research done, and these researches look into all sorts of parameters like how effective a statin is in reducing heart attacks, strokes, and at the same time looking at what side effects theses statins cause. And through these researches, we know that statins do reduce heart attacks. Statins do reduce cardiovascular related death. Significantly.

Based on this reason alone, one can conclude that taking statins will probably let you live a tad while longer. One can conclude that you can save a tonne of cash needed for treating a major heart attack.

So are statins all good? Are all those bad claims are just plain lies?

Well, a lot of the claims are actually half truths. Many of the side effects like myositis, possibility of liver failure caused by statin use are TRUE, and actually very well documented, and in fact published in the product insert itself. If only our patients were to read the package inserts. Thing is, these newage sites portray these side effects as "secrets" that drug companies try to hide from the public, and one can simply debunk this claim if they just read the inserts.

Also, claims that statins do more harm than good is also easily debunked by research that take into account "All cause mortality". These studies basically divide all the participants into 2 groups, and one group takes a statin, while the other doesn't. And after the completion of the study, they measure how many patients have died, no matter the cause.

Almost all of these studies favor the group taking statins, and that means statins do indeed reduce the number of deaths. So no matter how you look at it, it's just not true that statins cause more death. Period.

Bottomline is, I would take a statin if my cardiovascular risk is high, and my condition requires a statin. And until a better treatment method emerges, I would take a statin without any hesistation, if it is necessary.