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Stanford researcher cautions against widespread use of statins

Last year, I recorded a 1:2:1 podcast with Mark Hlatky, MD, a Stanford professor of health research and policy, about the preventive use of cholesterol-lowering statins for people with normal cholesterol levels. Hlatky has doubts about the health benefits of expanding statin use and believes people at cardiovascular risk should consider lifestyle changes before beginning a life-long drug regimen.

Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a front-page article about the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) February 9 approval of the expanded use of rosuvastatin (Crestor) following results of an 18,000 person study in 2008 for the JUPITER Study Group.

So the debate is on. Some cardiologists, on the one hand, are evangelizing statin use and pointing to the JUPITER trial that showed a substantial reduction in morbidity and mortality in people treated with these drugs. And then there are others like Hlatky, who urge caution and see no reason why otherwise healthy people should begin a drug regiment when the benefits vs. the risks are still debatable.

Anyone who's thinking of taking statins should consider Hlatky's warnings. As he told the Times, "It's a good thing to be skeptical about whether there may be long-term harm from healthy people taking a drug like this." And, just last month, the Times indicated, "came the unexpected evidence linking statins to a diabetes risk" (the findings were reported in the British medical journal The Lancet).

Soon, we'll be seeing a multi-million-dollar marketing campaign targeting an estimated 6.5 million Americans who have no cholesterol problems and no sign of heart problems urging them to conisder Crestor. If you're one of those people thinking through the options, listen to Mark Hlatky before you make a decision.

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