Do you know anyone who takes cholesterol-lowering drugs? Chances are they are older people who have problems with their weight and their blood pressure - and oh, that they are people who have tested for high cholesterol. But if you saw someone taking those drugs when they didn't answer to any of those indications? The government has just approved a major cholesterol drug, Crestor, for use as a preventive in people who are healthy right now, and have no cholesterol-related problems. This does seem a little greedy of the drugmakers. Cholesterol-lowering drugs, the ones that belong to the class of medicines known as statins, already sell better than any other drug in the country. And now they have to push it on people who don't even have a problem yet.
Doctors (the ones who aren't connected to the company that makes Crestor, presumably) don't believe this is quite the great idea that it is made out to be. If a person has not much by way of a family history in heart attacks, such a patient could actually come to some harm from taking preventive cholesterol medication. The class of drugs known as Statins is such a bestseller for a good reason - its action on the body helps keep thousands of Americans every year on this side of a heart attack with almost no side effects. It is this quality in the drug - that it's almost free of side effects - that encourages drug companies to push it as a preventative. And yet, isn't it a clear case of avarice and callousness that a drug should be promoted that may harm those who have neither a cholesterol problem nor a family history.
As negligible in occurrence as the side effects of cholesterol-lowering drugs are known to be, that opinion is meant to be seen in the context of the risk of cholesterol-related heart problems that patients who are prescribed the drug are usually known to live with. The side effects of the drug are not negligible to a person whose case doesn't present the context of any kind of risk of a heart problem. Crestor does come with a significant risk of causing diabetes. Now, if you had a major family history of heart disease, you could live with that risk because it would help you live longer. If you're quite healthy, what exactly do you gain lowering an already low heart disease risk, and raising your risk of diabetes by 10%? This is a drug you're supposed to be taking to the end of time. Wouldn't you put yourself at unreasonable levels of risk just on the off-chance that you could have a cholesterol-related problem one day?
And it's not just the cholesterol-lowering drugs that are being pushed; the blood test they use to determine that you would be a good candidate for the new preventive medication is a pretty dubious customer too. It doesn't even measure how much cholesterol you have; it just measures a certain kind of suspected effect of that cholesterol - inflammation. The only problem is, no one really knows if inflammation is any measure of how much cholesterol you have. Meanwhile, the major pharmaceutical companies are putting the finishing touches on an advertising blitz to help you get on their moneymaking bandwagon. They really are licking their chops in anticipation - they feel that they are about to get a whole new market of millions of more people, for their drugs.
Even people who take the drug for high cholesterol levels they have, often complain of side effects like muscle aches. And now, they're going to expose millions of new people to muscle aches too, for no reason. The diabetes problem, as the FDA says, does exist in the preventive cholesterol drug idea; but they want to do nothing more about it than just put it on the label. For the kind of infinitesimally small benefit that you get taking cholesterol-lowering drugs for no reason, you might as well take a vitamin B supplement. Niacin is supposed to help with cholesterol. But that probably won't be profitable enough a thing to push.