The following is a guest article by Justin Smith, the man who made the incredible documentary Statin Nation, a DVD I strongly suggest you watch. It’s the perfect companion piece to my new book, The Great Cholesterol Myth.
A national newspaper here in the UK (the Daily Mail) recently reported “How a 40p statin can stop deadly form of blood poisoning”
OK, here we go again. It’s a great pity that much of the mainstream media no longer consider the implications of what they publish.
This article relates to a recent study published in the journal Critical Care, which investigated the use of a statin in people with sepsis (which is a harmful or damaging response to infection).
It was a small study of 100 people with sepsis. 49 were given a statin and 51 were given a placebo.
I’m not criticising the study itself. From a certain point of view, it might make sense to try the use of statins in cases of sepsis. Statins are known to have anti-inflammatory effects and inflammation, of course, is a key feature of sepsis. However, the anti-inflammatory effect may weaken the body’s immune system overall.
Another important point is statins, of course, lower cholesterol, and low cholesterol levels have been consistently shown to increase the risk for infection.
Therefore, as with any medication, the benefits and risks have to be balanced.
Using some criteria, the use of the statin did reduce the severity of sepsis, however, there were the same number of deaths in both the statin and placebo group. So there was no evidence that the statin actually provided any extension of life. In addition, after one year, there was no difference in hospital readmission between the statin and placebo group. It is also worth mentioning that the researchers measured the patients perceived quality of life index and, at discharge, the people who did not receive the statin had a better quality of life index.
The way that the Daily Mail skewed the results in favour of statins was misleading. For example, by the statement: “The findings suggest the drugs, which cost as little as 40 pence a day, could help to reduce the death toll from a condition that affects around 37,000 people a year in Britain”
The study did not find a reduction in the death rate at all. This is factually incorrect.
And this recent study did not really tell us anything new; it certainly was not newsworthy.
In 2012 there was a detailed review of the use of statins in cases in sepsis, published in the Annals of Intensive Care. The study can be found here:
Statins in the Critically Ill, by Isabelle De Loecker and Jean-Charles Preiser
The authors of this study provide a balanced review of the use of statins in cases of sepsis and, all things considered, there was no clear evidence of any net benefit associated with the use of statins.
The Daily Mail article also took the opportunity to portray statins as cheap, by referring to “a 40p statin”. I have complained about this many times before, but I must say it again – statins are not cheap, they cost the ‘health’ service in the UK 450 million pounds each year, not to mention the costs of administering the cholesterol test itself, which probably doubles the cost.