Huff Post has an article by Joseph Mercola that examines the "myths that portray fat and cholesterol as one of the worst foods you can consume." It also delves into a series of issues related to the real value of cholesterol lowering drugs.
Read the whole article. We highlight and cite this section which says things that we have been saying ever since we found out that lipitor gave us a serious case of liver disease and we started reading the labels and analyzing the inserts.
Most cholesterol lowering drugs can effectively lower your cholesterol numbers, but are they actually making you any healthier, and do they help prevent heart disease?Definitely worth reading the whole article.
Have you ever heard of the statistic known as NNT, or number needed to treat?
I didn't think so. In fact, most doctors haven't either. And herein lies the problem.
NNT answers the question: How many people have to take a particular drug to avoid one incidence of a medical issue (such as a heart attack)?
For example, if a drug had an NNT of 50 for heart attacks, then 50 people have to take the drug in order to prevent one heart attack.
Easy enough, right?
Well, drug companies would rather that you not focus on NNT, because when you do, you get an entirely different picture of their "miracle" drugs. Take, for instance, Pfizer's Lipitor, which is the most prescribed cholesterol medication in the world and has been prescribed to more than 26 million Americans. [xviii]
According to Lipitor's own Web site, Lipitor is clinically proven to lower bad cholesterol 39-60 percent, depending on the dose. Sounds fairly effective, right?
Well, BusinessWeek actually did an excellent story on this very topic earlier this year, [xix] and they found the REAL numbers right on Pfizer's own newspaper ad for Lipitor.
Upon first glance, the ad boasts that Lipitor reduces heart attacks by 36 percent. But there is an asterisk. And when you follow the asterisk, you find the following in much smaller type:
"That means in a large clinical study, 3% of patients taking a sugar pill or placebo had a heart attack compared to 2% of patients taking Lipitor."
What this means is that for every 100 people who took the drug over 3.3 years, three people on placebos, and two people on Lipitor, had heart attacks. That means that taking Lipitor resulted in just one fewer heart attack per 100 people.
The NNT, in this case, is 100. One hundred people have to take Lipitor for more than three years to prevent one heart attack. And the other 99 people, well, they've just dished out hundreds of dollars and increased their risk of a multitude of side effects for nothing.
So you can see how the true effectiveness of cholesterol drugs like Lipitor is hidden behind a smokescreen.