‘Breakthrough’ cholesterol therapy may break your wallet… but it won’t save your life!
Sometimes when I read a new study that’s just been published, I get frustrated.
And then other times, I get downright angry.
That’s what happened when I witnessed what I call “The Great Cholesterol Swindle” entering a whole new phase with the presentation of a study promoting a new type of cholesterol-lowering drug.
It’s called evolocumab (Repatha), and it’s part of a new class of drugs called proprotein convertase subtilisin-kexin type 9 inhibitors (PCSK9 inhibitors, for short) that lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
And they really lower LDL cholesterol — as much as 60 per cent, in some studies.
So, you ask, what’s wrong with that?
Despite the fact that the strategy of lowering dietary intake of cholesterol has largely been discredited as a means of lowering cardiac-based mortality, the study was heavily touted in the press as a new breakthrough in therapy.
Headlines read, “Study Finds Cholesterol-Lowering Drug May Prevent Heart Disease,”1 implying that the drug had universal applications in preventive medicine.
Even Dr. Eugene Braunwald, well-known researcher at Harvard Medical School, stated “It’s a new ballgame,” referring to the potential widespread use of the drug.
But, as I’ve shared with you before, the “war against cholesterol” is a total misunderstanding of the role of cholesterol in maintaining our cardiac health.
What you’ve got to understand is that cholesterol isn’t the enemy it’s been made out to be. But the business of getting rid of it has become the goose that lays the golden eggs.
Well, I’m here to kill that goose — because it’s very likely that you DON’T need to lower your cholesterol.
And, even if you do, you don’t need any kind of drug to do it.
New drug, old tricks
Presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology, this study applied only to a very small, special population — in effect, the highest of high-risk cardiovascular disease patients.
They already have had heart attacks or documented cardiovascular disease, were on statin drugs in moderate to high doses and in some cases, were also on ezetimibe (Zetia), a widely-used drug that blocks cholesterol absorption.
I detect a common strategy that’s driven purely by economics — one that Big Pharma uses successfully over and over.
They develop a drug or treatment that shows some success in a very restricted population. Then, buoyed by that success and needing to make back their multi-billion-pound investment, they attempt to expand the indications so that more and more patients seem to need it.
Patients read about the drug’s so-called miraculous benefits and demand it from their doctors. And those primary care doctors and internists, not wanting to undertreat their patients, start using it more and more, until it seems like “bad medicine” to withhold it from a patient.
No one is exempt from this swindle
You see, bringing a new drug through the approval process can cost billions… and marketing it can cost billions more.
A drug company has to make that money back. So, they can: 1) charge exorbitant prices for their new drug, 2) lobby to expand the indications for the drug so that more people “need” it, and/or 3) frame their studies so that the drug sounds more successful than it already is.
Some companies manage to do all three of these things.
And nowhere has this strategy been more successful than with statin drugs.
There’s been a careful and relentless attempt to lower the threshold of cholesterol treatment, training generations of doctors and patients to think “the lower the cholesterol, the better.”
And so, it has become the norm to treat practically everyone with statins — including children, women with no heart risk, extremely elderly individuals with little or no cardiac history, men with moderate cholesterol levels and high HDL (protective) cholesterol levels… Pretty much EVERYONE.
This is how Lipitor and other statins became so popular, by creating a need and filling it.
Lipitor, after all, is the best-selling drug OF ALL TIME!2
And that didn’t happen randomly.
Why go broke if it won’t save your life?
Just looking at the study of Repatha, that one study cost millions to carry out — and that money has got to come from somewhere.
Enter Big Pharma and its hiked-up prices.
Repatha’s annual cost per patient comes in at around £4,448.60 for 140mg every two weeks, and £6123.60 for 420 mg monthly.3
And in the US, the current price tag of Repatha, which has to be injected to work, is a whopping $14,100 per year — about twice as much as other brand-name statins typically would cost a patient.
And, based on the results of the study, it would cost $2.4 million in Repatha doses to prevent one heart attack, and $7.5 million to prevent one single stroke… in the US alone.4
But here’s the kicker: Preventing a heart attack or a stroke is definitely a good thing, but the ULTIMATE goal of any preventive medicine strategy is to extend and to save lives.
Yet when the researchers looked at mortality from all causes in the Repatha study, there was NO difference, whether someone took the drug or not.
Let me repeat that.
This £6123.60 drug… which is being talked about as the next biggest thing in cholesterol management… which is being seen as a saviour by drug companies that are starting to see their profits fall as statin drugs go off patent and cheaper generics hit the market… it DOESN’T WORK!
Patients in the study died at exactly the same rate whether or not they took this drug.
This is the same finding with many of the statin studies. Yes, they SEEM to prevent some “cardiac events,” as heart attacks are called. But they don’t show ANY ability to change life span in most population groups.
The praise and high hopes lavished on a drug that is exorbitantly expensive — AND shown to be ineffective in saving lives — just goes to show that decisions in conventional medicine are driven by drug company profits, pure and simple.
Cashing in on lowering the lipids you actually need
It’s not just that statin drugs are expensive.
It’s not even that the medical system is broken.
The icing on the cake isn’t even that there are NO studies to support statin use in an elderly age population, yet doctors continue to prescribe them to patients well into their 90s (as I can exhibit with my own 93-year-old father, who’s been convinced by a cardiologist to start taking a statin drug).
When it comes down to it, the widespread use of these cholesterol-lowering drugs is actually doing more HARM than GOOD.
Case in point: I can’t tell you how many patients have come to me with uncomfortably low levels of sex hormones and stress hormones but were put on statins for a slight elevation of their cholesterol.
Those drugs, in effect, DEPRIVED them of cholesterol, the raw material that they need to form those hormones!
Besides that, I can describe dozens of female patients with NO discernible cardiac risk who’ve been placed on statins to lower a supposedly “high” cholesterol. The problem is that cholesterol is necessary for proper memory and brain function; and if your brain is deprived of it, your cognitive function can decline.5,6
And that’s especially true if you’re a woman.
So, stop the swindling before it starts. If your doctor tries to give you statins or even mentions Repatha, do your homework.
Understand the risks involved in taking these drugs, which the mainstream wants you to stay on for the rest of your life.
Make sure you know exactly how “high” your cholesterol is… and how “low” your doctor is trying to get it to go.
And, as with any big decision that impacts your health, get a second opinion — ideally from a doctor practicing integrative medicine who’ll try first to bring your lipid count down (if it TRULY is dangerously elevated) naturally before putting you on risky drugs.
Wishing you the best of health,
Dr. Glenn S. Rothfeld
Nutrition & Healing
Full references and citations for this article are available in the downloadable PDF version of the monthly Nutrition and Healing issue in which this article appears.