Just recently, the FDA approved a prescription statin drug called Crestor as a preventive measure for healthy people, who have the beginning signs of heart inflammation. Will this work or is this the start of a slippery slope for thousands of trusting consumers down the road to poor health and drug dependency?
What is heart inflammation?
The bodies immune system is a delicate balance of fatty acids. Two of the most important are the omega 3 and omega 6 groups If these two are in a one-to-one relationship then things are probably fine. Unfortunately, our modern diets have resulted in a typical Westerner having 15 times as much omega 6s as omega 3s.
This results in an overactive immune system that causes heart inflammation which leads to hardening of the arteries, strokes and arrhythmia. Arrhythmia is the leading cause of death for people who have had a heart attack. It happens when the hearts electrical system short circuits to the point of chaos.
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Crestor, is the second best-selling statin in the U.S. The manufacturer, AstraZeneca, is now planning a new marketing and advertising campaign for Crestor, based on the new F.D.A.-approved criteria.
Dr. Mark Hlatky, a professor of health research and cardiovascular medicine at the Stanford University medical school, shares my opinion when he says
“It’s a good thing to be skeptical about whether there may be long-term harm from healthy people taking a drug like this.”
What does the drug do?
In this case, it is to be used with healthy people who have elevated levels of C-Reactive Protein (CRP). CRP is a test used to measure the levels of inflammation in the blood. It is a more reliable indicator of heart attacks than cholesterol alone. Tests have also shown that statin drugs will reduce CRPs, but at what cost?
There are several issues. The first is this. You do not need statin drugs to reduce heart inflammation. Remember, it is the lack of omega 3s in the diet that are the chief problem. These are the same omega 3s found in fish oil. This is not new information. Both the American Heart Association and the F.D.A. have recommended them for years. Similar European and Asian agencies have agreed.
Another issue is the price. The study, that the F.D.A. is relying on, suggests that for every 500 at risk people, Crestor might prevent one mild to moderate heart attack. Each pill will cost at least $3.50. An annual prescription for 500 people would run $638,000.
In other words, it would cost $638,000 to possibly prevent one survivable heart attack. Stroke numbers were similar.
Is it worth it?
Even if the drugs cost as little as a quality fish oil supplement, it still would be irrational. Statin drugs have side effects. That is one reason they are issued by prescription. Bayer Aspirin had a statin called Bacol. It was linked to 52 deaths from muscle disorders and removed from the market in 2001.
Crestors side effects are not this severe, but several consumer groups are also trying to get it removed. In addition to the already known side effects, the British medical journal The Lancet reported that statins could raise an individuals risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 9 percent.
Let us see if I have this right. We should spend $638,000 [per 500 people] to perhaps lower our heart inflammation risk by less than 1%, but increase our diabetes risk by 9%.
Dr. Steven W. Seiden, a cardiologist in Rockville Centre, N.Y stated:
“The benefit is vanishingly small. It just turns a lot of healthy people into patients and commits them to a lifetime of medication.”
Fish oil supplements are food, not drugs. They not only reduce heart inflammation, but inflammation throughout the body – in the joints, eyes and brain. Your next step is to decide which road you wish to travel. Be careful. All supplements are not created equal. Except for the lack of side effects, some are not much more effective than Crestor.