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Statisticians Can Easily Mislead Doctors About Statin (or any) Drug Safety

Doctors don’t go to medical school to become expert at interpreting statistics. Yet most of the articles that tell us how safe drugs might be rely on complex statistical analyses that go far beyond what I learned in my one credit course on Statistics for Medical Practitioners. For the most part, doctors have to take the word of the statisticians on whether a drug has a given benefit or harm.

An example is a recent Lancet review article has been hailed as the “definitive” summary of the potential risks versus potential harms of statin drugs. The authors conclude that most of the side effects we’ve thought statins had are actually nonexistent. They predict just 2 adverse events per 15 cases of heart attack or stroke prevented, and make rather strong statements about doctors not prescribing statins often enough.

A couple of folks I respect have pointed out that the authors have long served as apologists for the statin industry. In my video critique of the Lancet article I discuss Malcolm Kendrick, and HealthInsightUK.

My concern about this particular article is that, as far as being the last word on risk versus harm, it’s seriously flawed by failure to include ALL the common side effects in the analysis. Some side effects simply weren’t discussed, like heart failure. But most side effects were dismissed based on the results of randomized controlled trials. However,  a little-known stage of most such trials called the “run-in” or “wash out” period, can be used to screen out massive numbers of study subjects. I believe that this little trick is often used to sway the results in favor of a given drug.

View my video critique of the Lancet article here, and let me know what you think. Do you believe doctors should also consider the potential harms from statin side effects that I review in the video, do you think they are irrelevant like the Lancet article claims?


Dr. Cate

With over two decades of clinical experience and expertise in genetic and biochemical research, Dr. Cate can help you to reverse metabolic disease and reshape your body.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I had 2 stents inserted in my Heart in July 2016 at age 65. I was a heavy smoker for 50 yrs. I’ve since quit. My cholesterol was ‘normal’ range at the time and has never been high by any standard. I was prescribed a daily statin, to be taken “forever”. At NO time was I told about side effects. The Doctor who prescribed the statin had my complete medical history, which includes Charcotte Marie Tooth Disease (CMT), a peripheral neuropathy. A short time later I awoke to a very swollen knee and could not move my leg an inch, in any direction. I had been experiencing very painful cramps in my toes and the arches of my feet and in my calves. My hands were cramping very badly. I assumed it was my CMT getting worse. Turns out it wasn’t. After about 18 hrs of being unable to move (I had pee’d into a couple of empty water bottles) I called the Fire Department to come and open my apartment door, so help could enter. Over the next several months this happened 3 more times but someone now had a key to my door. It cost me several hundred dollars for ‘home care’. At NO time did my GP or Cardio guy suggest the statin was my problem. I was experiencing very troubling memory problems. I accidentally came upon a short video on YouTube by MIT scientist Raymond Francis, which started me on a 30 hr probe about statins. I quit taking my Lipitor!! Within 24 hrs the cramps stopped and my memory started to improve. Once I found out that I did NOT have heart disease and had a strong Heart muscle, and learned about what that medication was for, I knew I had made the right decision. All the Cardio guy would say was that NONE of my medications would cause me ANY problems and I’d likely DIE without them. Any Doctor who would say that should be in the unemployment line. The whole “LDL is BAD for you” line is total BS! It does sell billions of little statin pills. I was believing that this pill was all that stood between me and certain death. There is more to this but I won’t put that info online. Be happy to discuss with ‘Dr Cate’ anytime. I apparently experienced something that was unprecedented.

  2. Another form of “fake news.”

    Turns out, you have to learn how to “read between the lines” and do your own research from multiple sources around the world, all just a few mouse clicks away. But you have to WANT TO do this. We are the most empowered people who ever lived on the plant, but it take time to sort out the facts and draw conclusions.

    Hard to know who or what to believe anymore about anything current.

    Thanks for your insights. Seem to be “right on” most of the time.

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