Which is a Bigger Risk Factor for Cardio-Vascular Events, Cholesterol or Inflammation?
Every year our government and many private institutions spend billions of dollars on research, yet a great deal of this research goes unread. Even worse the information learned from these studies is often never utilized in treating and preventing human disease. Unfortunately, there are just as many, if not more, researchers and scientists working for big pharmaceutical companies. The dream of all pharmaceutical company CEO’s is developing a drug that people will need to take for a lifetime in order to control their medical condition. This means the search for profit interferes with finding the truth.
To compound this situation, most doctors never have the time to read more than a few articles in popular medical journals, and they never read studies of basic science. Because of this lack of time, medical doctors rely too much on what is told to them by pharmaceutical reps, the same reps that represent the pharmaceutical companies that are more interested in how many prescriptions of their products are sold than they are interested in healing the patient, after all a patient that is healed no longer needs their product. In defense of the medical doctors, they just do not have the time to research alternative treatment modalities; as such they think so-called alternative treatments do not work.
Statin drugs are a good example of how successful the pharmaceutical companies have been. The statin class of drugs has been the biggest moneymaker in history for the pharmaceutical industry. But the medical doctors and likewise the public at large have been denied one essential bit of information: The benefits of statin cholesterol-lowering drugs are no better than taking an aspirin a day.
According to the pharmaceutical industries own studies, the improvements in reducing heart attack and stroke risk is virtually the same as following an aspirin a day regimen.
In a study of two statin drugs, atrovastin and pravastatin, reported in the 2005 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, patients with low levels of highly sensitive C-Reactive Protein (hsCRP) had fewer heart attacks no matter what their LDL-cholesterol level. Furthermore they had more heart attacks if the hsCRP was elevated regardless of their LDL-Cholesterol level.
The same thing has been found for stroke risk. Another recent study, the Pravastatin or Atrovastatin Evaluation and Infection Therapy – Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction 22 (PROVE IT-TIMI 22) study, examined patients on high and moderate doses of statin drugs. This study found that in both groups, there was no difference in the cholesterol levels of those with stroke and those without. The only difference was the levels of hsCRP.
Few medical doctors who prescribe statin drugs know that the link between elevated cholesterol levels and strokes has never been established. So if cholesterol is not the cause of these cardiovascular events then what is? The latest studies show that inflammation is an independent risk factor for heart disease that is much stronger than any measurement of cholesterol. The link to inflammation is strong and is supported by many laboratory and clinical studies.
Reported reductions in stroke risk for people taking statins has varied from no statistical reductions (as in the Treating to New Targets or TNT study) to 19 percent to 50 percent shown in the Long-term Intervention with Pravastatin in Ischemic Disease (LIPID), The Cholesterol and Recurrent Events (CARE), and Myocardial Ischemia Reduction with Aggressive Cholesterol Lowering (MIRACL) studies.
Newer evidence, however, suggests that any reduction in stroke risk is due to the anti-inflammatory effects of the drugs instead of their ability to lower cholesterol.
Statin drugs do both, lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation. So if a big pharmaceutical company can make lowering cholesterol the goal, especially a drastic decrease in cholesterol, and convince doctors that everyone even children should take them for a lifetime. And then can back this up with studies that show the drugs do reduce cardiovascular events then big pharmaceutical makes Billions of dollars. If on the other hand if hsCRP reduction or other measurements for inflammation are used as the guideline for reducing cardiovascular events, then there is not an exclusive product for the reduction of cardiovascular events because other treatment modalities reduce inflammation just as effectively and without the major side effects of statins. As a result big pharmaceutical company drugs would not even be given to 75 percent to 80 percent of the people because of their side effects (increase risk of dementia, cancer, confusion, immune suppression, muscle pains, weakness, and even risk of death). That is a massive loss in revenue.
Keith Abell, RPh MI