Here we go again with the call for statins to be given to more and more people. Poppycock. Especially when you actually see the statistics of how well they work.
I have read a few reports this week on the subject. One of the best was from Dr Briffa. You can read his whole blog post here: Statins For Healthy People? Hang On A Minute… but, for now, here are a couple of salient quotes for you to hammer the point home:
For low risk people: when we look at risk of death from any vascular event (a heart attack or stroke), we find that statins did not reduce risk in individuals deemed to be at low risk (<10 per cent over 5 years). This, by the way, was even true for those who had known vascular disease.
How many ‘vascular events’ (ie, heart attack and stroke) do they prevent?: We’re told by the authors this meta-analysis that treating with statins prevented 11 major vascular events for every 1000 people treated for a period of 5 years. Put another way, 91 people would need to be treated for 5 years to prevent one major vascular event. Or in other words, only about 1 per cent of people treated with statins for 5 years will benefit (and about 99 per cent won’t).
How many deaths would be avoided? the actual reduction in risk of death was 0.2 per cent per year. What this means is that at this level of cholesterol reduction, 500 individuals would need to be treated with statins for a year for one person to have his/her life saved.
NutriLink also came out with some useful stats to put it all in perspective. Look at these, which are based on what is known as the NNT, the numbers needed to treat, an official measure of a drug’s effectiveness:
Statin Drugs given for 5 years for heart disease prevention (without known heart disease)
• 98% saw no benefit
• 0% were helped by being saved from death
• 1.6% were helped by preventing a heart attack
• 0.4% were helped by preventing a stroke
• 1.5% were harmed by developing diabetes*
• 10% were harmed by muscle damage
In Other Words:
• None were helped (life saved)
• 1 in 60 were helped (preventing heart attack)
• 1 in 268 were helped (preventing stroke)
• 1 in 67 were harmed (develop diabetes*)
• 1 in 10 were harmed (muscle damage)
Statins Given for 5 Years for Heart Disease Prevention (With Known Heart Disease)
In Summary, for those who took the statin for 5 years:
• 96% saw no benefit
• 1.2% were helped by being saved from death
• 2.6% were helped by preventing a repeat heart attack
• 0.8% were helped by preventing a stroke
• 0.6% were harmed by developing diabetes*
In Other Words:
• 1 in 83 were helped (life saved)
• 1 in 39 were helped (preventing non-fatal heart attack)
• 1 in 125 were helped (preventing stroke)
• 1 in 167 were harmed (develop diabetes*)
Note finally Dr Briffa points out that in the ‘conflict of interests statement’ at the end of the study, some of the people involved were paid to attend meetings with Big Pharma so it doesn’t exactly sound unbiased to me. So, no, I wouldn’t agree they should be given to everybody, much as the drugs manufacturers would like it. Think of the profit they’d make. Puts me in mind of another story this week about giving Ritalin to so many kids, including now 3 year olds. Sigh.