Do you remember the story about the straw that broke the camel’s back? How the camel’s owner kept loading more and more straw on the animal’s back. Eventually one more straw broke the poor creature’s back. Pushing your luck too far is a poor idea. Now, a report in the British Medical Journal shows that doctors, like camel owners, should heed this advice.
Colin Dormut, Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia, participated in a study of excessive medication. He reports that during an 11-year period over two million patients’ charts were examined to see if kidneys were affected by the long-term use of cholesterol-lowering drugs (CLDs).
The Doctor Game
The researchers focused on high potency CLDs such as Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor. They discovered that patients who were prescribed these higher strength drugs had a 34% higher risk of being hospitalized due to acute kidney injury.
This sounds like a high risk, but the individual batting odds of being injured is small. For instance, out of 1700 patients taking high dose CLDs, only one patient would be hospitalized for acute kidney injury. However, when you consider the millions of people taking CLDs the numbers are not insignificant.
This is not the first study to show that the higher the dose of CLDs, the greater the risk of side-effects and I’m sure it will not be the last study to show this relationship. Most drugs become poisonous when taken in excessive amounts.
In 2008 I reported that Dr. Ikas Sukhame, Professor of Medicine at The Harvard Medical School, was taking CLDs to lower his own blood cholesterol. He noticed a dull pain in his back and legs when he was on this medication. He decided to stop it. The pain subsided after nine months.
Being an inquisitive physician, he joined a group of researchers in an effort to find the cause. By studying the effects of CLDs on muscle tissue, they discovered a gene called atrogen-1 that triggered the breakdown of protein in muscles. But equally important, they found that the higher the dose the greater the destruction of muscle tissue.
Why wouldn’t CLDs cause side-effects at high doses when they occur even in normal doses? Moreover, you also have to ask the question, “Is it a good idea to have low blood cholesterol?”
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute reported several years ago in the Journal, Circulation, that low blood cholesterol in both sexes was associated with a 40% greater risk of death from non-cardiac causes such as violent death, lung disease and certain cancers. It has also been shown that, for those over the age of 50, low cholesterol is associated with increased risk of death.
The fact is that CLDs, regardless of the dose, are linked to several medical complications while their benefits are minimal. This is why I’ve written for years that the use of CLDs is questionable.
A picture once caught my eye. It showed a small plane flying near a volcano. A passenger says, “Let’s take a closer look at the crater.” The pilot replies, “We can’t. It’s not worth the risk.”
20 years ago following a coronary attack, I refused to believe that CLDs were worth the risk. I had previously interviewed Linus Pauling who convinced me it was a lack of vitamin C that caused the human epidemic of coronary attack. The science sounded logical. I bet my life on this natural remedy. So for 20 years I’ve used high doses of vitamin C available in health food stores. The powder also contains lysine which strengthens arteries decreasing the risk of stroke.
Remember, I’m not your doctor and most physicians are totally convinced of the benefits of CLDs. So I’m not suggesting you toss away CLDs. But I believe history will prove me right. Cholesterol is a part of every cell and if you tinker with nature, there’s always unintended consequences, particularly if you keep increasing the dose. What’s bad for camels is also bad for humans.
Look for cardiovascular disease on my web site and see photos of how vitamin C affects arteries.
— W. Gifford-Jones, MD