The Statin Controversy and how to resolve it.
Dear Member of Parliament,
As a public servant concerned with the health of the population, I am sure you will be aware of the controversy over the widespread use of statin drugs which are said to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease in our society. According to recent reports, over 7 million people are taking statins the majority of whom are perfectly well but said to be at high risk of having a fatal or non-fatal heart attack or stroke or suffering from other consequences of vascular disease at some time in the future. The drugs are also given to individuals who have proven heart disease in an attempt to avoid or delay further adverse cardiovascular events.
In a nutshell, the dispute centres on the safety and efficacy of statin drugs which provides a measure of the risks and benefits of using them. While the pharmaceutical companies and the organs of health care argue that more people should be taking the drugs in order to avoid or delay vascular events, a large number of doctors and medical research scientists argue that the drugs are relatively ineffective and the high level of side effects does not justify the widespread use of these drugs.
Contradictory details of the dispute are often carried in the newspapers. For example, the Daily Telegraph newspaper of 1 August 2017 carried the headline ‘Statins needlessly doled out to millions simply because of their age’ while on the same day the Times carried the headline ‘Give statins to almost all men over 60, GPs are told’.
The attached booklet is sent to you in order to familiarise you with the depth and seriousness of this dispute. It will take you less than an hour to read part 1 in which the issues surrounding the statin controversy are laid out in simple terms. Part 2 provides information which underpins the serious concerns about statin use raised by many doctors and medical scientists throughout the world.
On reading Part 1, it will quickly become apparent that the divergence of views on the two sides of this dispute preclude a resolution of the issue in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, both sides insist that the public are in danger if they do not accept their particular interpretation of the risks and benefits of statin use.
Fortunately, there is a relatively simple method of resolving the statin controversy which is proposed in the enclosed publication. It is to carry out a retrospective review of the health and longevity of 10,000 statin users who have been taking statins for a minimum of ten years as compared with an equal number of matched individuals who had the same characteristics and risk factors as those taking statins had when they began taking the drugs. As explained in the booklet, this solution to the problem would be cost effective and would quickly reveal whether statins are helpful or harmful in day to day use over a period of years. In a matter months we would know more about safety and efficacy of statins than we have learned in 15 years of clinical trials and 20 years of analysis of their outcomes.
This suggestion for the resolution of the dispute should be acceptable to both sides of the controversy as it will give them an opportunity to prove they are in the right, not based on predictions from results of old and outdated clinical trials but on what has actually happened to a sample of the millions of people who have been taking these drugs for at least ten years.
There are, however, some conditions which would need to be met in order to satisfy both sides in this dispute. The proposed retrospective review of statin takers and non-users would need to be carried out by a body which is independent of both the pharmaceutical companies and the organs of health care, both of which have a large vested financial interest in the outcome. It would therefore need to be managed by an organisation such as the Institute of Medical Sciences which has a reputation for competence and absence of bias in conduct of such enquiries.
The only body with the power to order such an enquiry is the House of Commons before which this non-party political proposal could be presented as an early day motion with the approval of a significant number of MPs from both sides of the house. Finally, the conduct of the enquiry would need to be fully transparent, all results and supporting analyses being freely available for review by any interested party. This would be in contrast to the previously conducted clinical trials in respect of which, individual patient data requested by a number of researchers was withheld by the pharmaceutical companies.
There can be little doubt that members of the public would keep careful watch on such an enquiry as those with a personal interest in the outcome, being statin users and those who qualify for statin use, together with their families must number at least 50% of the total adult population of the UK.
I hope you will agree that those who are elected to represent the interests of the public have a clear duty to protect society from mismanagement by the medical authorities which may place them at risk of damage to their long-term health and survival. I am therefore hopeful that your signature to a request for an early day motion will be amongst those which bring the proposed study into being.
Author of “The Statin Controversy and how to resolve it.”