ASK THE DOCTOR: My cholesterol’s fine so why am I on statins? Can a GP make incorrect decision?

A reader writes in asking why he has been prescribed statins

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Education around food is essential to combat the obesity crisis

I retired six months ago and my doctor prescribed me 40mg simvastatin tablets. My liver tests were normal and my cholesterol level was 5. When I asked why I needed statins, I was informed that as I was now in the 65-year age group it was the general opinion that I should take them.

I am a non-smoker, non-drinker and eat sensibly. I have slight tiredness and sometimes feel lethargic. How long should I expect to be on these statins?

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32 Replies

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  • If nothing else, that is an example of how bad much of the NHS is about ensuring patients give informed consent to treatment.

    From my own experience

    I have been told by a cardiac nurse 'you're going on a cholesterol pill'

    The first consultant I saw prescribed simvastatin, refused to talk to me when I said I wanted to discuss the risks and benefits, in fact refused to discuss anything at all and generally acted like wasn't in the room (he dictated a letter to my doctor about me in front of me).

    Consultant no 2 was probably the best as far as communication went, but still refused to discuss the evidence about risk with me, and still said 'I'd take a statin if I were you' .

    Consultant no 3 was slighly better than no 1, but still talked more than he listened, wouldn't let me talk and refused to answer any questions I had.

    Since I'm generally healthy this was my first real encounter with hospital referrals etc and I was absolutely appalled at how poor patient communication was. Being an awkward sort, I've complained and am still complaining in the hope of improving things, but it is a very far cry from what the NICE guidelines say should happen in terms of patient communication.

  • Your doctor receives a financial incentive for prescribing statins. Current research suggests that low cholesterol and low fat diets are linked with alzheimers and dementia.. the US medical governing body has recently announced that cholesterol is 'no longer a nutrient of concern'.

    Cholesterol levels of 5 are excellent in any case for someone who is in their 60's.

    I have diabetes controlled by just diet and exercise for 12 years - this would be impossible if I followed NHS advice...

    I will never take a statin...

  • Someone I know works in a hospital and she says many of the patients she sees are on long term medication such as proton pump inhibitors, statins and anti depressants and have no idea what the drugs are or why they are taking them.

    I think that is absolutely horrifying.

  • Oh and by the way I work in what is a specalist field and often have to explain information to members of the public. No matter how informed/uninformed the person you are speaking to is, you can communicate the information effectively if you use proper techniques - the most important of which is LISTENING to what they say.

    Most of the doctors/nurses I've seen have been completely unwilling to listen.

  • I agree, I was in IT training for 10 years. Listening, repeating the questions and not just answering but offering more examples and information are very important. I offered to give my experience over the last fours years by attending meetings in my GP practice, no one wanted to know. Is my life style change working? only time will tell.

    It is not costing any money to my GP practice as I have refused medication!!!

  • My very mentally alert neighbour in her late 80's with a lot of medical problems and had a pacemaker fitted years before saw another doctor when her usual one was on holiday. He asked why she was on so many medications (11) and she could not tell him. He said that most were the source of her problems and reduced them to four.

  • That is unbelievable. ....as much as my surgery is trying to get me on Statins because of my cholesterol level there was nothing said to my husband when his BP and cholesterol readings were fine. Even though his younger brother had a heart attack and takes Statins and BP tablets there was no suggestion my husband take anything at 68yrs. They were just pleased with his readings.

  • I highly recommend that in order to understand the reasons that doctors routinely medicate unnecessarily, people should read the new book by T Colin Campbell PhD (author of The China Study). It is called "Whole". It is excellent.

  • In the NHS, they have targets to meet and get extra payments for meeting them.

  • When I went for my Flu jab on Saturday I was handed a slip to ask if I wanted to see a doctor for a memory test while I was there. I expect that was another nice little earner for them.

    Many years ago my then GP stopped me in the street and said that he was doing Well Man checks the following week and to make an appointment.

    He did very little and I asked what it was in aid off. I get £25 for every one I do he said. Another time he asked when I had last had a Tetanus jab. I said many years ago so he said that I was overdue for another. I'm getting £10 for every one I do this week he boasted.

  • Thank you for the information on this book. There are many people doing research on improving health service but no one is willing to look at what happens in a surgery consulting room! This is where the problem is.

    Blood test results, high cholesterol, high blood glucose. What are the options? medication or life style change.?

    Do GPs have experience in life style change?

    GPs will go for the medication first.

    This is what happened to me. I refused medication and went on life style change, four years later still no medication. Only time will tell.

    I tried to offer my experience to the surgery and this was declined!

    I better stop here.

  • One reason this might have happened is that this surgery is trialling the new NICE 10% risk threshold for statins. According to some pieces I've read, every man of 65 has a 10% risk of heart disease, so all 65 year old men would automatically be prescribed statins. If Deanne's surgery isn't participating, her husband wouldn't have been advised to take them.

  • This might have been useful when they thought cholesterol was causing heart disease. Now they think it doesn't have any affect on it and statins are doing more damage than good.

  • The official NHS view is still that cholesterol is one factor in heart disease risk, and that statins should be offered to anyone with more than 10% risk of a heart attack.

    Lots of doctors disagree with that though, and don't want to prescribe statins for such a comparatively low risk.

  • Doesn't NICE send instructions to GPs nowadays telling them what to prescribe & what they shouldn't or are not allowed to prescribe (probably due to cost). They do get paid for complying in some instances & I believe can be punished for not doing so. This didn't happen during the 30 years I worked in GP surgeries when the doctors were more or less free to prescribe what they deemed appropriate for individual patients, which is so important, as we shouldn't all be treated en masse.

    Unfortunately some patients do not help themselves, in that they do not ask questions & just accept what drugs they are given without even knowing what they are for, although this has improved greatly over recent years due to the media & the internet. This is why sites such as this are so valuable & helpful. Where would be all be now if we couldn't look up facts at the press of a key & share experiences with others? My husband was prescribed statins years ago just because he had type 11 diabetes, although he had never had elevated cholesterol, nor a relevant family history. Of course I queried this with his GP (he has Alzheimer's) but was told he was acting on NICE recommendations. Much as I am quite robust in questioning if I want reasons or explanations & much more knowledgeable about medical matters than the average patient, I still didn't feel that I could go against the doctor's advice on behalf of my husband. Fortunately he doesn't have any side effects from statins, but due to the cocktail of pills I have to administer to him every day, I sometimes feel like stopping his statins myself.

  • Current research suggests a link between statins and alzheimers - a man who was has very advanced alzheimers went back to normal after being taken off statins... and I can personally testify that even on just a low fat diet my memory started to fail - but it has improved back to normal since I went on a non fat restricted diet and started taking cod liver oil/eating more oilly fish...

    I bet your husband is on a low fat high carb diet too ? Statins will dramatically impact this situation.

    I reduced my cholesterol on a HIGH FAT low carb diet. Low fat diet increased my sugar levels and cholesterol... seriously.

    Give it a go - what have you got to lose?

    Good luck

  • I can't find the exact one I read but there's loads out there..

    scientificamerican.com

    drbriffa.com/.../statins-wo...

    experiencelife.com/article/...

  • any long term medication can lead to Alzheimer's. I have been on Zertik for my allergy for nearly 35 years, I took a copy of a report to GP to have it checked.

    I was informed not to worry.

    From my family discussion there is something it any long term medication what ever the medication is!!!

  • Hello Traci.

    I don't know about Alzheimers, but memory problems are officially listed as a side effect of statins.

  • Hi, I was interested to learn that your husband has Alzheimer's and Diabetes 2. I have read recent articles that are linking Alzheimers and Diabetes due to the insulin resistance. The brain makes insulin and if you are resistant to it its causing the Alzheimers. You might want to look further into this.

  • Also that insulin resistance is due to low vitamin B3 not eating the free fattyacids from cell walls. Hence the increase in B3 from the fish/ and oils making the cholesterol better makes total sense to me.

  • Is the Daily Mail deliberately trying to raise our blood pressure I ask! Even Dr Martin Scurr admits to being "puzzled" over this.

    Why is it in every other aspect of life we are encouraged to do our research, ask questions make choices and so on, but in the prescribing of drugs we are expected to take what we are prescribed without asking any questions.

  • One life therefore people belief in doctors!

    In the last four years I discussed life style change, food intake control and regular exercise with medical people. Some medical people can understand what I am talking about. One cardiologist from USA mentioned, I have been to medical school, statin is the answer for cholesterol!. What can I ay to that.

    This cardiologist may be earning a lot of money in USA.

    Retired medical people say, take what ever the medication doctor gives, eat and drink and enjoy life!!!

  • A fiend in America has high cholesterol and was on four different statins a day, He started to get muscle and shoulder pain that was curtailing his still active lifestyle. He had a new doctor and went to see him for the first time. He explained his worsening symptoms and said that while he was concerned about his cholesterol levels he enjoyed his meat and potato chips.

    His new doctor said, Your 85 and don't need to be in pain and at your age you should eat what you enjoy, stop the statins.

    He E-Mailed me, I like my new Doctor.

  • bala...I am sorry for your lethargy. I was a once vibrant and healthy 29 year old Critical Care RN, who happened to have a cholesterol level of 285, at a doctors appointment, It was suggested to me to start a Statin..which I happily did, as I "knew the risks and benefits" of these drugs..almost 4 years later I fell horribly ill, requiring a 28 day hospitalization. Brain MRI scan revealed multiple scattered lesions throughout the white and grey matter of my brain, a Brain Biopsy revealed these lesions to be Holes in my brain, a look at the biopsy through an electron microscope, revealed Mitochondrial DNA mutations most similar to that of Mitochondrial Encephalomyopathy with Lactic Acidosis and Stroke Like Episodes (MELAS), a muscle biopsy corroborated these findings. I was no improving and was similar to a 99 year old man with advanced alzheimer's disease. I was to be transferred to a nursing home, pending bed placement. I was 34 at this time, I was wetting and soiling myself, I was unable to walk, unable to speak coherently, was unable to feed myself..it wasnt until I was evaluated by a visiting professor from Johns Hopkins, who suggested I start a Mitochondrial Cocktail (Essentially 13 vitamins, amino acids and CoEnzyme Q10.) It was within 36 hours of beginning this cocktail, that I became able to verbalize the need to use the bathroom, I could answer simple questions and began to walk with assistance. I was discharged home a few days later with aggressive rehab therapies, which I continued for several months. I had a rather extensive neuropsych eval, which determined short term memory impairments, cognitive slowing all of sufficient severity to substantially limit any gainful employment. I enrolled in a University of California, San Diego Statin Effects Study, which concluded the holes in my brain (Neuronal Apoptosis) and the MitoChondrial DNA mutations were caused by my use of lipitor. I was SHOCKED, to say the least...I knew these drugs, and never knew these were remotely possible. I have since joined a facebook group, facebook.com/groups/statins I wncourage anyone to check it out if you want to learn the truth about cholesterol and the real risks and minimal benefits of Statins...I also suggest the book "The Truth About Statins: Risks and Benefits of Cholesterol Lowering Drugs" By Dr Barbara Roberts MD, and Cardiologist of 40+ years...she deciphers the statin study data and explains the very minimal benefits and the plethora of adverse effects. If anyone would like, I have a long list of evidence disproving the cholesterol heart disease hypothesis which was founded on flawed data by Ancel Keys in the 1950's..Id love to share with anyone who would like.. email me at crandreww1999@yahoo.com

    Thank you

    Chris Wunsch

  • Hello,

    Thank you for giving a full length of your problems and recovery. I am happy to read your story and also very sad to read what you went through.

    Most of my life I have refused medication, there is one medicine I take for allergy on a daily basis and haven bee doing this for last 35 years so I can eat any food at any time without worrying of any reaction.

    Take care.

  • Bala, being a former nurse, I was very open to medication for all of my 12 year career..until my lipitor induced demise. I've since learned how pharma companies can and do manipulate statistics to sell drugs...how they minimize adverse events and boast minuscule benefits...Like making a 0.34 absolute risk reduction appear as if the whole world is suffering from a statin deficiency, by boasting the relative risk reduction..Pharma slight of hand....And now I question everything. I dont take a pill for anything if I can help it, for example, I had shingles 5 years ago, went to the doctor, she told me she could give me an antiviral which may or may not help, I said no thank you, went home and researched on line, and found many people expressing great pain relief from Shingles, by taking Apple Cider Vinegar (Orally and Topically) so I tried it, and immediately pain was GONE. And every time the pain would flare up again, another shot of Apple Cider Vinegar and pain was gone. I told my wife, either the Apple Cider works, or its one heck of a placebo effect, either way the pain was gone, every time I used it. I research and try to be my own health care provider. I do my best to avoid going to the doctor if at all possible, and I recommend everyone else do the same

  • Like all treatments, you have a choice, you can say no.

  • It's often very hard to say no if you are put under a lot of pressure to take a statin. My first post on this thread describes the pressure I was put under. I'd say the cardiac nurse was the worst, he wanted to put me on a statin straight away and wouldn't listen when I told him my GP had referred me to a lipid clinic.

    If you have FH or possible FH and attend a lipid clinic you are put under a great deal of pressure to use statins and you have to be fairly strong minded to refuse. In my view there's a lot of scaremongering goes on.

  • I understand it is hard to say no when you believe Doctors know best. Its wasnt so long a go that Doctors believed leeches would remove sickness from the body. This since has been proven to be a Pseudoscience. The practice lasted 2000 years before Doctors decide this. Most of the current medicines have not been around long enough to warrant total faith in them. If your body says no, tell your Doctor no.

  • AMEN, Kate!!! Only you have the final say as what you CHOOSE to put in your body. After the UCSD Statin Effects Study, I was contacted by Dr Doug Walllace (PhD) whom Dr Golomb informed me was one of the most brilliant minds in Mitochondrial Research, he informed me that while he cannot tell me what to do, he assured me that should I choose to take another statin drug, there is only one way for me to go and that I would get worse. I Politely thanked him as my own doctor had been badgering me to restart a statin drug.. I had to fire my prescriber as he would just badger me to take a statin.

  • Bala, it seems your doctor, like so many

    are simply eager to create a patient from a healthy person. Sickens me... Low Dose Lipitor 10mg, caused my disability in 2002, at 34 years old because of the "dreaded high cholesterol".. Cholesterol is an extremely valuable molecule. so much so, that we manufacture it. Statin drugs lower cholesterol bu blocking a key enzyme in the Mevalonate Pathway (a process in which dozens of molecules are manufactured in our body), and by blocking this initial step (HMG CoA Reductase), every following step is also blocked, including the manufacture of Dolichols, Testosterone, Estrogen, Vitamin D, Steroid Hormones, etc, etc..Why so many prescribers seem to forget their basic biochemistry where they learned the Mevalonate Pathway, is beyond me. Maybe drug company shills (salesmen) and tv ads browbeat them as well as well as the general public into believing the fallacy that Cholesterol is the devil, when in fact is nearly as crucial for life, as oxygen is. I Suggest you try to read "The Truth About Statins: Risks and alternatives to Cholesterol Lowering Drugs" by Dr Barbara Roberts MD, Cardiologist of 40+ years, I am in a Facebook Statin effects Group, which are over 1000 members, most statin effects sufferers, a few chemists, a few cardiologists, but most victims of Statins. facebook.com/groups/statins I invite anyone to come and to learn about the very real, often disabling effects these drugs can and do have, all while offering a LESS than 1% reduction in heart attack risk...less than 1%, absolute risk reduction, less impressive sounding than the Relative Risk Reduction you hear from your doctor, or Drug commercials.

    If you or anyone would like more info, please email me at crandreww1999@yahoo.com I would be happy to share the scientific data Id discovered over the past 13 years now,

    God bless!

    Chris

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