According to a recent article in the Times, titled Deaths linked to heart drugs UK government figures show that at least 92 deaths have been caused by statin drugs developed to lower cholesterol. The death toll is almost certainly higher because doctors are reluctant to blame drugs they prescribe for harming patients.
Statin drugs are known to cause atrocious muscle pains in users, sometimes resulting in fatal dissolution of the muscle tissue and death from kidney overload, as the debris clogs up that organ's filtering tubules and toxicity becomes overwhelming. The muscle problems are described as very rare but they may be much more common than the drug makers admit. Just scan the comments at the end of these articles (here) (here) and (here) and you'll get the idea.
A safety review is overdue, say the experts...
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March 06, 2005
Deaths linked to heart drugs
Lois Rogers, Medical Editor
(see original here)
EXPERTS are calling for a complete safety review of heart drugs taken by millions of Britons. Government figures released last week show that 92 deaths have been linked to the statin drugs developed to lower cholesterol. It is believed that the death toll could be higher because doctors are reluctant to blame drugs they prescribe for harming patients.
More than 37 of the deaths were attributed to a formulation called simvastatin which is now being sold over the counter in low doses under the brand name Zocor.
Many specialists are concerned that the drug, produced by Merck, should be available without a prescription. A statin called Lipitor, made by Pfizer, was associated with 36 of the deaths.
Three other leading statin brands - Novartis's Lescol, BMS's Lipostat and AstraZeneca's Crestor - have been associated with 19 deaths since they were introduced in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
As well as the deaths there have also been reports of 7,000 side effects reported to the Department of Health by doctors, including kidney and liver damage and muscle weakness.
Doctors accept that the cholesterol-lowering effects of statins have saved thousands of people from dying prematurely of heart disease, but question whether they should have been distributed so widely. There are an estimated 3.9m people taking the drugs, almost a third more than a year ago.
The drug companies are targeting at least 4m more middle-aged Britons said to be at "moderate risk" of a heart attack in the next 10 years because they are over 55 and overweight.
Anxiety about overuse of the drugs is coupled with a growing body of research suggesting the connection between cholesterol levels and health is more complex than previously thought. A number of investigations have found that people with higher amounts of cholesterol live longer than those with lower levels, suggesting it may only be a cause of heart disease in much younger people.
Next month an inquest is to take place into the death of Ivor Meacher, 71, a fit former tennis coach from Okehampton, Devon, who became ill and died within weeks of being prescribed a statin for an irregular heartbeat.
Research by his daughter, Jay Ballard, has produced what she says is irrefutable evidence that his death was caused by the drug atorvastatin, manufactured by Pfizer and marketed in Britain as Lipitor.
She was, however, unable to persuade her father's doctors to make an official report of the death through the government's "yellow card" scheme for adverse drug reactions.
Eventually she contacted Andrew Herxheimer, emeritus fellow of the United Kingdom Cochrane Centre and co-founder of DIPEx (an electronic database of patients‚ experiences) in Oxford. He has filed a yellow card on her behalf.
Cholesterol, a type of fat, is needed in the body for the production of hormones, but if there is too much it sticks to the walls of blood vessels and eventually blocks them. Statins block a liver enzyme needed to produce cholesterol.
The body reacts by pulling in cholesterol from the bloodstream, thus lowering circulating levels.