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Would You Like a Side Order of Simvastatin?

Posted by bmagnus On August - 13 - 2010

A group of British doctors are suggesting a novel way to combat the “artery clogging” properties of fast food: serve it with a free dose of anti-cholesterol drugs. They call it “a rational modern means to offset the cardiovascular risk,” comparing it to the risk reduction of “wearing a seat belt or choosing cigarettes with filters.” But is it a good idea?

The doctors behind this idea claim that most statins can easily counteract the fat found in “a quarter pounder with cheese and a small milkshake,” although they do concede that it would have almost no impact on someone who only eats such a meal once a year. Their target is the person who eats a fast food meal most days. They also claim that this additional “condiment” wouldn’t cost any more than a packet of ketchup.

It’s worth pointing out that “Representatives from Merck, which manufactures Lipitor, and Pfizer, maker of Zocor, declined to comment on the idea.” They stand to make a lot of money if such an idea is implemented, yet they remain silent. Even many doctors criticize the idea, saying things like:

Let’s get real; we should be encouraging healthy lifestyles, not pill popping. This is an unwelcome addition to the ‘pill for every ill’ attitude that’s already much too common. The danger of this research is that some people will become even more complacent about eating fatty food and high calorie food, and might even increase their intake of them.

Or this:

“The suggestion that the harmful effects of a junk food meal might be erased by taking a cholesterol-lowering statin tablet should not be taken literally. Statins are a vital medicine for people with, or at high risk of developing, heart disease. They are not a magic bullet.”

Statins may have a low risk of side effects, but there are side effects and drug interactions to consider. In fact, some research suggests that even doctors underestimate the side effects their patients experience. Moreover, a recent metastudy shows that statins do not reduce the risk of death by heart disease, leading others to join the chorus suggesting that statins are over-prescribed in the United States. Another problem to consider is that some people may overdose on these proposed free statins, either because they take it in addition to their prescription or because they are eating multiple fast food meals daily.

Her take: This was an ill-conceived idea that should have been published on April Fools Day, if at all. I have no idea how this made it’s way into the pages of the American Journal of Cardiology, a generally respected peer reviewed journal. Not even the makers of statins are willing to stand behind this ludicrous idea.

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