Here is a rule I generally follow: If an issue is too complex to wring the truth out of in a reasonable amount of time and effort, go with your gut feeling.
Hence, when I was told that my cholesterol levels were too high, I declined my doctor’s recommendation to take medication for it. Instead, I opted for continued vigorous exercise and a strict low-cholesterol diet. I maintained this lifestyle for almost a year and then had my cholesterol checked again. It had hardly budged. At that point, I realized that this is a genetic trait that I could do little about. My family has virtually no history of heart disease, so I reverted to eating pretty much what I pleased (within reason – and I do happen to like fruits and vegetables). I’ve been doing this for several years. More recent tests have shown that my cholesterol levels have dropped somewhat.
But my new doctor was adamant that I should start taking statins to lower my cholesterol levels. He confronted me about it twice, and each time I firmly refused. The whole matter seemed fishy to me. I knew that somebody was making a ton of money off of these medications. I knew that they were being heavily promoted in the media – and I was suspicious.
It’s not at all clear that cholesterol, even “bad” cholesterol, (LDL) is bad for us. Dr. Shane Ellison has made a case that the benefits of cholesterol outweigh its risks. I recommend reading the article, though it’s somewhat long. Ellison is not alone; many others have questioned the premise that cholesterol (LDL) is our enemy, and that we should fight it with drugs.
Others opine that Low Density Lipids (LDL) are, indeed, a risk factor that needs to be addressed – but only when the patient is already suffering from heart disease. Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, at The Huffington Post, makes this argument, and backs it up with several studies. He claims that millions of Americans are harming their health, and wasting their money, by taking cholesterol medication when it is not indicated at all.
In the pro-Lipitor camp, we find articles touting its benefits not only in combating heart disease, but also, in combination with Viagra, in relieving impotence. For example, in drugs.com we read:
According to the Mayo Clinic, Lipitor may cause difficulties in achieving or maintaining an erection. It may also trigger loss of sexual desire or drive.
That’s right. Pfizer markets a drug that is widely claimed to cause impotence – and it also markets a drug to treat that impotence. If you check the Lipitor official website, you will find a list of possible side effects. Conveniently, erectile dysfunction is not listed. I think Pfizer is not being on the up and up with us.
When your doctor speaks to you, he’s probably not lying. Most likely, he has your best interest in mind. But he may be swayed. I don’t claim to be an expert in the matter, but money talks. Lots of money talks a lot – and, in this case, we’re talking about a very large sum of money. I’ll conclude with a quote from Dr. Ellison:
With dollar signs in their eyes, drug companies have launched a massive fear campaign about cholesterol. Being led by the pharmaceutically-compliant National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), the campaign convinced the entire world that LDL- cholesterol is bad and that total cholesterol levels should remain below 200 mg/dL in order to prevent heart disease. (Of the nine nerdy members of the NCEP, eight had financial ties to cholesterol lowering drug makers like Pfizer, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and AstraZeneca. This fact was concealed when the NCEP made its recommendations public.)…
Pfizer’s blockbuster drug Lipitor became the first prescription drug to make more than $10 billion in annual sales. To date, Forbes Magazine tells us that statins are earning drug pushers $26 billion in annual sales – the equivalent of your lifetime income, plus 1500 others, every year! Think this can buy medical journals, ads and lobbying to push fear along with the cholesterol-lowering agenda?