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13 December 2016

A Bitter Pill: the Dispute Over Statins

For some, the drugs are a lifesaver.  But others claim their
effects can be devastating and even fatal.
“There has to be a proper investigation into the use of these drugs,” says David Purkiss, 71, a former carpenter. “Doctors are covering up the side-effects. I started talking about what statins had done to me to someone in a hospital waiting room, and I quickly had about nine people comparing notes. A doctor came out and told me to shut up.”

A bitter pill: the dispute over statins
by Lois Rogers, The Telegraph, 
9 December 2016

Caroline Fisher could only look on helplessly as Mustafa Gunaydin, her partner of 20 years, went from energetic middle age to helpless disability.

As he lost weight and his hair fell out, doctors tried the accepted medical treatments, but in vain. Gunaydin shrivelled and his muscles became useless. He became too weak to speak and, eventually, to breathe. Aged 59, he suffered a three-day heart attack and died.

Fisher is convinced that Gunaydin's death was linked to statins, the world’s most commonly prescribed drugs, which are designed to lower cholesterol, the fatty substance found in every cell of the human body and in varying levels in the blood. Cholesterol has long been held up as a cause of heart disease – but that cause-and-effect relationship is increasingly under question.

“I think statins are poisonous for some people, and that they damaged Mustafa,” says Fisher. “My heart sinks when people tell me they have been prescribed them. I think they are being medicated unnecessarily and are at risk of premature ageing, and debilitating pain and fatigue. We don’t yet know what further damaging side-effects will come to light. Cholesterol is needed for all muscle function, including the heart.”

Before his death, and against medical advice, Gunaydin stopped taking statins. Within a month his health was so transformed that he was able to go on an energetic holiday walking in Turkey.

On his return, a blood test showed that his cholesterol had risen and revealed high levels of creatine kinase, a breakdown product of muscle tissue. It should have served as a warning that the statins were causing damage; however, Gunaydin’s symptoms were diagnosed as motor neurone disease.

“The doctor said if Mustafa didn’t go back on statins, he would die,” says Fisher.

Since statin drugs were introduced in the Seventies, cholesterol reduction has been an unchallenged goal of all public health policy. The latest official guidelines, issued last year by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, say anyone with a 10 per cent raised risk of heart disease – measured by elevated cholesterol level, blood pressure, fitness and family history of heart disease – should be offered statins, in most cases a treatment that continues for life. It is a guideline that could draw in 17.5 million patients, or around 40 per cent of all adults in the country.

But critics argue too little is known about whether the risks of the drugs could outweigh the benefit. (Potential side-effects are known to include life-threatening muscle weakness, diabetes, kidney or liver dysfunction, and memory loss.)

“There has to be a proper investigation into the use of these drugs,” says David Purkiss, 71, a former carpenter, who lives with his wife, Sheila, 67, in Titchfield, Hampshire. “Doctors are covering up the side-effects. I started talking about what statins had done to me to someone in a hospital waiting room, and I quickly had about nine people comparing notes. A doctor came out and told me to shut up.”

Purkiss suffered such a dramatic decline in strength on statins that he ended up in a wheelchair. However, since he stopped taking the drugs eight years ago, he has enjoyed a reign as a champion geriatric weightlifter.

Continue reading:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/wellbeing/health-advice/bitter-pillthe-dispute-statins/

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