Medical Minute 12-19:

By: Andrew McIntosh Email
By: Andrew McIntosh Email

Portia Tibbs is taking steps to help control her cholesterol. She's also taking cholesterol-lowering statins, just like millions of other people.

"I don't really like taking medicine, but I have to."

Now, because of the so-called Jupiter study, many doctors are urging some people with normal cholesterol to start taking them too. Jupiter tested more than 15-thousand people who had normal LDL levels and high levels of an inflammation biomarker. For the group taking statins:

"There was between a 40 and 50 percent reduction in the risk of the things we really care about, like death, stroke, heart attack," said Steven E. Nissen M.D., F.A.C.C., Chairman Department of Cardiovascular Medicine Cleveland Clinic.

After less than two years, the five year study was cut short because of those findings. Cleveland Clinic Cardiologist Steven Nissen says the study changed the way he practices medicine. He says before the results, he and a lot of other doctors occasionally did blood tests for inflammation.

"Well, we're making that measurement more often now."

Doctors may use the results to prescribe statins to prevent heart disease. But U-C San Diego's Doctor Beatrice Golomb says it's not known with longer-term use and in real world users, whether the benefits outweigh the real risks.

"Portrayed as being so fantastically safe it should be put in the water supply. In real world use this drug causes problems not infrequently," said Beatrice Alexandra Golomb, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, U.C. San Diego School of Medicine.

Golomb tells us that while some people benefit from statins, others have reported symptoms similar to Alzheimer's. Muscle weakness, nerve damage and cognitive problems have also been issues for people in the Jupiter study.

"There was evidence of a significant increase in incident diabetes."
She wants to see more studies on the drug's long-term effects on patients with inflammation, but Doctor Nissen still believe that in most cases, statins work.

"It's taken more to convince others and I respect people who are cautious."

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