As mentioned in section 4, cholesterol-lowering by itself does not prolong your life. In the experiments, that have shown this fact beyond all doubt, cholesterol-lowering was performed by diet or by use of various older drugs such as clofibrate (Atromidin), gemfibrozil (Lopid), cholestyramine (Questran), colestipol (Lestid), and nicotinic acid (Nicangin).
But the modern type of cholesterol-lowering drugs, the so-called statins have apparently been successful. For the first time cholesterol-lowering have shown significant improvement of mortality, both coronary mortality, stroke mortality and total mortality. These trials are therefore considered as a strong argument for the idea, that high cholesterol is dangerous.
However, as we have shown in a review of 37 statin trials, the benefit is miniscule. In a few of the experiments, cardiovascular or total mortality was even highest in the treatment groups, although not with statistical significance.
To “improve” the results from the statin trials, the authors have even misused statistics. If two patients die in a control group of 100 individuals, but only one in the treatment group, the benefit is of course only one percent. No, no, the the statin supporters may say, the benefit is 50%, because one is 50% of two.
Another way to present the benefit is to calculate how many patients you have to treat to prevent one death. Let me give you two examples.
In the CARE trial 5.7%, or 119 individuals died from a heart attack in the control group and 4.6%, or 96 individuals in the treatment group. Thus, to prevent 23 coronary deaths (1.1%) it had been necessary to treat 2081 individuals for five years, which means that 90 patients were treated for each life saved.
In the WOSCOPS trial, which included only healthy individuals with a high cholesterol, the result was even less impressive. Here, 61 died in the placebo group, 41 in the treatment group, a risk reduction of 0.6%. To save these 20 lives it had been necessary to treat 3302 healthy individuals for five years, or 165 individuals for each life.
According to the trial reports, side effects from statin treatment are rare; less than one percent. What very few have observed is that in almost all trials the participants are treated with the drug during a run-in period of a few weeks, after which those who suffer from side effects or who do not want to participate are excluded. The results from two trials without a run-in period [SAGE and IDEAL)] and where a high statin dose was compared with a low dose demonstrated that this is an effective way to minimize the number of reported side effects; in the SAGE trial, serious side effects were recorded in more than 20% in both groups, and in the IDEAL trial, the number was almost 50%.
The commonest side effect is weak or painful muscles, but they are only reported in the trial reports if creatine kinase, a blood component which reflects the degree of muscular damage, is more than ten times higher than the normal level. Other side effects include, cancer, cataracts, diabetes and cerebrospinal diseases (damages of the brain and nerves). According to FDA Adverse Event Reporting System, adverse effects from cerebrospinal dysfunctions are classified in 23 separate reaction terms (suicidal attempt, suicidal ideation, suicidal behavior, aphasia, balance disorders, coordination abnormal, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, amnesia, memory impairment, transient global amnesia, cognitive confusional state, irritability, paranoia, disorientation, dementia, depression, depressed mood, neuropathy, pain in extremity, Guillain–Barre syndrome, ALS and multiple sclerosis). The incidence of statin-related side effects in the many different subcategories is present at a low rate, but if all of them were to be combined the total number of adverse events may be substantial.
You can find more details about the statin-supporters criminal methods in this paper:
How statistical deception created the appearance that statins are safe and effective in primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease