My Health, Trust, and the Drug Industry

Last week, I was told my cholesterol was 297. By any measure, it is too high. At my tender age of 33, it is downright dangerous for my long term health.

I am going to go the route of most and try to control it with diet to start. It will be interesting to see if some changes can make a strong enough impact. Looking at what I eat, I am not confident that diet alone is going to do it.

That leads me to an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. The latest major study on cholesterol shows benefits to getting your LDL below 80 (webmd definitions here, and mine is 207 btw). The way it was done in the study was to prescribe aggressive doses of medication. The study was funded by Pfizer and the experimental group was given 80 milligrams of Lipitor versus the control group that got 10 milligrams.

The total group size was around 10,000 people and:

“In the study, 80-milligram patients reached an average LDL of 77, compared with 101 for those on 10 milligram. All patients were started on 10 milligrams before they were assigned separate doses and all started the study with average LDL of 98. After 4.9 years, 10.9% of patients in the 10 milligram group and 8.7% of patients at the 80-milligram dosage had suffered a major event, such as a heart attack, stroke, or death from heart disease. That means a reduction in risk of 22%”

From a public health standpoint, that is a big deal. There are two more large studies that plan to be published in the next year that are trying similar treatment. The are most likely going to confirm what has been found.

The study showed a small increased risk of side effects – including liver inflammation – at higher doses. This is a problem with medication now and it is not a surprise that a higher dosages causes more problems.

This is what caught my attention. There was a small increase in death from noncardiac causes among the 80 milligram patients. The researchers say it was statistically insignificant, that each death was looked at, and no pattern was found.

We heard a similar story with Vioxx and now I have a hard time trusting what the drug industry these studies have to say. There is too much money at stake. There are now multiple cases of drugs showing increased risks and patients not being informed until after there are widespread problems.

I just want an honest assessment of the risks I am taking if I need to start taking one of these medications.

One thought on “My Health, Trust, and the Drug Industry

  1. Todd,
    Three years ago my cholesterol was almost 250.
    Since then I went the low carb/low cholesterol/more exercise route and got to 200 with 70 points of good cholesterol.
    That’s still not good enough but it is better than a fifty point swing.
    Diet and exercise can do a lot. I’m going to experiment some more.

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