Consumer Reports

The clinic doctor got very pissy with me when I told her I wouldn’t take a statin. I had my doubts as to their effectiveness/relevance, and I sure as hell knew I didn’t like the side effects. Looks like I was right!

Can we stop all those Lipitor commercials now?

The medical community was shaken last week by news that raising HDL (good) cholesterol with drugs did nothing to protect against heart attacks, strokes, and death. Since high HDL levels have been linked to better heart health, it seemed a given that raising HDL would help prevent heart attacks. But the new study found that t’aint necessarily so.

The study, from the National Institute of Health with backing from the drug makers Abbott and Merck, was halted after 32 months of a planned 6-year clinical trial. The study included 3,414 people with a history of cardiovascular disease who were all on a cholesterol-lowering statin to lower their LDL (bad) cholesterol level. Roughly half were also put on high-dose niacin (Niaspan) to raise their HDL and lower their triglycerides. Niacin did improve those levels. But the researchers saw no reduction in the number of cardiovascular events and deaths compared with those on a statin alone, and so the trial suffered an early demise.

4 thoughts on “Consumer Reports

  1. My apologies if I misread this, but I read the linked article to indicate it was the increased doses of niacin that were debunked; not the underlying value of a statin. Did I miss something?


  2. They’re saying that lowering the bad cholesterol numbers or raising the good ones doesn’t do anything to improve outcome – i.e. heart attacks, strokes, death.

  3. I’m afraid I read this the same way as mawado – both the treatment and control groups were on a statin, and then the treatment group was additionally given the niacin to both raise HDL and lower LDL. The study found that the niacin did not improve outcomes, as you said, but it didn’t address the issue of the effectiveness of the first statin that both groups were taking.

    That’s no reason to take them if you don’t want to – people in my family haven’t responded well to them at all – but I was struck by the weird framing of the Consumer Reports piece.

  4. Let me try this again. What they concluded was that whether you lowered the bad HDL or raised the good HDL, it didn’t improve the health outcomes. The point is that they focused on changing a number that didn’t really help improve anyone’s health. Yes, they lowered the bad cholesterol and/or raised the good cholesterol. But it didn’t prevent heart attacks, strokes or deaths. It showed that while cholesterol levels are correlated with heart disease, they do not appear to cause it, and so fiddling with those numbers doesn’t improve the results.

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