As you will know already (or come to know if you read my blog posts or my book) I am not a big fan of the mainstream media’s poor attempts at providing decent health journalism.
They often tend to print a headline from an organisation funding some biased research aimed at promoting drugs that their business partners sell, and then quote mis-guided government policy documents to support their article.
The skills of applying simple logic, digging a little deeper, looking for bias or conflicts of interest seem ‘wanting’ in modern journalism.
Maybe they don’t teach that stuff in journalism school these days.
An article in The Times today by their Health Editor Kat Lay epitomised this lazy, inaccurate journalism and was titled:
“Health chiefs back cholesterol drug with fewer side-effects as alternative to statins.”
The article proclaimed that “The first cholesterol-lowering pill in a decade for patients unable to tolerate statins has been approved by the treatments watchdog.”
They explained that a substance called bempedoic acid “could be used for patients who found statin side effects unbearable”.
My first response was a little chuckle to myself, at the idiocy of the statement.
Bearing in mind, many of the side effects of statins are created because they lower cholesterol production, the idea that a new drug might lower cholesterol without side effects seemed very unlikely (if not impossible).
I read a bit further, hoping that there might be some logic, or data to support this hypothesis. There wasn’t!
The article went on to explain that “many patients stop taking statins because of side effects including muscle pains, although a recent study found such effects were equally common if they took placebo pills instead.”
To imply that statins have minor side effects and these are eradicated with a placebo controlled trial is misleading journalism of the highest order.
This “recent study” consisted of 200 people with average age of 69.5, switching between statins and placebo every 2 months and essentially were asked if they had any aches and pains.
The implication from this that side effects from taking statins are not legitimate is dumb for two reasons.
Firstly because there is a lot of evidence to show that side effects a lot more serious than a few aches and pains are experienced by statin users.
Asking a 70 year old person if they have any aches and pains, when they are already at a stage where they are prescribed a statin, is like asking a fish if it feels wet very often!
This one, tiny, anecdotal study (with no links to enable verification of facts or conflicted interests) is held-up against….well….against the 500 scientific papers referenced by David Evans in his book Statins Toxic Side Effects.
This book sub-divides the 500 papers into chapters, so you can see where the evidence points to statins role in:
I don't know about you....but I don't find these trivial issues!
I guess this all counts for nothing if 200 elderly statin-users feel generally ‘achy’ when taking a placebo after a statin though.
The second reason that it is dumb to minimise the legitimacy of statin side effects, is that if you have an article claiming there is a new drug that can treat cholesterol without side effects, then it stands to reason that you are accepting there are side effects.
Why would you create a new drug without side effects, if there were no legitimate side effects from the current drug that provided similar treatment!?
So are there really no side effects of the new drug based on bempedoic acid?
There was a link in this article to an article from last year, run by the then Health Editor of The Times Chris Smith, who wrote on 14th March 2019;
“Hundreds of thousands of people with high cholesterol would benefit from a new drug on top of taking statins, a trial has suggested.”
So the suggestion is that one takes the cholesterol lowering medication with no side effects….as well as the cholesterol lowering medication with many very dangerous side effects!
No real mitigation of side effects then!!
He went on to refer to the research on bempedoic acid (they didn’t provide a link…which would seem sensible if it was credible) headed up by Professor Kausik Ray, at Imperial College London.
This research claimed that Nilemdo (the name of the new bempedoic acid drug) could lower cholesterol by 28% when taken on its own but by 40% when taken with ezetimibe.
OK, well I guess ezetimibe is super-safe then?
Noted side effects for ezetimibe include:
Yellowing of your skin and the whites of your eyes
Severe muscle problems, including rhabdomyolysis.
Unexplained muscle pain in your shoulders, thighs, or lower back
Trouble moving your arms and legs because of weakness
Producing less urine than normal
Nausea and vomiting
Now I am really confused…..
…..but I got even more confused when he continued to point out in his article that The New England Journal of Medicine performed a trial with 2,200 people and found that bempedoic acid caused side effects such as gout!
So it DOES have side effects and it is to be used WITH either statins or ezetimibe….both of which DO HAVE SERIOUS SIDE EFFECTS!
OK…..so this is now starting to look like quite a farcical article.
But the worst thing of all, is that the whole article is based on the mistaken preposition that reducing cholesterol reduces heart disease risk, which is a principle known to be fundamentally inaccurate and contrary to the results of independent scientific research.
He quoted a Professor Kausik Ray again “What we have is a new class of drug that could be given to patients who are already taking statins and could help them to further reduce their cholesterol levels.”
Ray added: “When it comes to heart health and cholesterol, there is no such thing as ‘too low LDL-C’.”
Er….try telling that to the family members of people born with SLOS.
SLOS (Smith-Lemli-Optitz Syndrome) is a rare condition, but highlights the effects of low cholesterol in the body. Those born with SLOS have very low cholesterol due to issues with cholesterol synthesis.
Sadly, they suffer a wide number of challenges defined at www.rarediseases.org as;
“A small head (microcephaly), mild to moderate mental “retardation” and multiple birth defects (including particular facial features), cleft palate, heart defects, fused second and third toes, extra fingers and toes and underdeveloped genitals in males. This is because their neurones cannot develop properly, due to a lack of cholesterol.”
They noted that some with this condition do respond slightly to treatment though;
"Cholesterol supplementation (one or two egg yolks), sometimes in combination with bile acids, appears to improve growth and reduce photosensitivity in individuals with SLOS with no harmful side effects."
In The Times article, Jules Payne, chief executive of the cholesterol charity Heart UK, is quoted as saying: “High LDL-C levels accounts for one in four heart and circulatory disease deaths in the UK. High cholesterol is a silent killer and a condition that does not usually come with signs or symptoms, which is why we urge all adults to get a cholesterol check, regardless of age or how healthy they feel.”
Not according to my experience......or independent studies….
….like this one where researchers concluded that saturated fat increased cholesterol and stated “Most recent meta-analyses of randomised trials and observational studies found no beneficial effects of reducing saturated fat intake on cardiovascular disease (CVD) and total mortality, and instead found protective effects against stroke.”
….or this one where the conclusions found that “Cholesterol is ubiquitous in the central nervous system and vital to normal brain function including; signalling, synaptic plasticity, learning & memory. Cholesterol is so important to brain function that it is generated independently of cholesterol metabolism in the rest of the body and is sequestered by the blood brain barrier.”
Another David Evans book - Low Cholesterol Leads To An Early Death - Evidence From 101 Scientific Papers provides more detail on why cholesterol is so important, for your health and your immune system, and why reducing it is dangerous and life-limiting.
At a time when a pandemic can make a compromised immune system problematic, or even fatal, and with optimal cholesterol providing 70% of our immune systems protection from pathogens, this article is I am afraid, dangerously dumb!
Please….never, ever get your health advice from national newspapers or the mainstream media.
Dig a little deeper.
Use Your Head, Heal Your Heart!