cholesterol-lowering statin drugs

  1. Statins for flu? Don't believe it!

    It's the cure-all that doesn't really "cure" a thing -- but that hasn't stopped the mainstream from throwing cholesterol-lowering statin drugs at absolutely everything anyway.

    The latest: A new push to give these meds not to people who suffer from high cholesterol (who don't need the drugs, either), but to people suffering from the flu.

    No, it's not April 1st and I didn't just make that up: Researchers now claim that statins can not only beat the flu, but actually stop people from dying of the illness.

    In this case, an observational study of flu patients who were hospitalized for the condition found that people on statins were 41 percent less likely to die than people not on the meds.

    Just one problem -- one huge problem: This wasn't a clinical trial. No one was randomly assigned to statins or a placebo. In fact, there were no placebos at all. It was simply a hindsight look at flu patients and their outcomes as well as whatever meds they happened to be taking at the time.

    The researchers claim they waved their magic statistical wand over the study and adjusted for everything from age and race to chronic conditions and diseases to get a picture of the patients' overall health, and still found a benefit for statins.

    But since it wasn't a real clinical trial, it's impossible to adjust for everything -- and it's quite likely that patients who were already on statins were patients who were already under the active care of a doctor.

    These people are more likely to take the actions they think will help keep them healthy (even if it's the wrong action, like swallowing statins every day) and more likely to seek help quicker when they do get sick.

    The patients not on statins, on the other hand, might include people who tend to avoid doctors and medical care -- at least, in this case, until they were so sick with the flu they were hospitalized for it.

    Here's the reality of the situation: Statins are wrong for cholesterol… and they're certainly wrong for all the other conditions they're being touted for (I've seen claims they can help with everything from dementia to cancer, no kidding).

    And they're especially wrong for flu: Some of these meds even have respiratory infections and influenza listed as possible side effects!

    You couldn't come up with a worse flu treatment if you tried.

  2. Hidden dangers of heart scans

    Your doc might think a CT angiogram is a great way to peek into your arteries to determine what kind of heart risks you might be facing.

    Sure, it's great for him -- it helps him pay his bills.

    But for you, it's not so great -- especially if you don't have any heart symptoms. Not only are these scans useless when it comes to saving lives or preventing heart problems in healthy patients, but they also lead to more tests, drug prescriptions, and even invasive catheters.

    Researchers compared 1,000 Korean angiogram patients with no history of chest pain to 1,000 similar patients who got only a standard medical exam without a CT screening.

    More than 20 percent of the scan patients learned they had the signs of atherosclerosis. One third of them ended up on cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, and 40 percent ended up on the dangerous aspirin-a-day routine.

    By comparison, only 10 percent of patients with "normal" scans and 10 percent of those who weren't scanned at all were put on those meds.

    After 90 days, however, there was absolutely no difference in the rate of serious heart problems in either group, according to the study in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

    Eighteen months later, it still made no difference at all. Just one patient in each group experienced any kind of serious heart problem in that time.

    There were a lot of numbers in there, so let me break it down for you. These screenings don't save lives. But they could help ruin more than a few -- because the treatments and even the test itself come with big risks.

    CT angiograms deliver up to 600 times the radiation of a single x-ray. At a time when we should be cutting down on exposure, these things give you more.

    Patients who get them are also injected with a special contrasting dye that can lead to allergic reactions and even kidney damage.

    But wait, there's more! If your unnecessary angiogram leads to a statin prescription, you could face everything from muscle pain to sexual side effects.

    And patients who gobble down aspirin for their heart can literally ruin their stomach.

    I'm not sure why docs keep telling patients to swallow aspirin for heart health in the first place -- studies have repeatedly found that so-called aspirin therapy is a myth.

    Read more about that here.

    Bottom line: If you're not experiencing heart problems, think twice before you get scanned.

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