The hidden truth about statins

pillsandmoneyStatins are the most popular drugs in history. Drug companies made $26 billion selling statins alone in 2008. 25 million Americans take them, and the number is growing each year.

One reason why statins are the best-selling drug category by far is that 92% of people taking them are healthy. The FDA has approved the prescription of statins to people at low risk for heart disease and stroke, who don’t even have high cholesterol. Two years ago the American Academy of Pediatricians recommended that statins be prescribed for kids as young as eight years old.

With sales statistics like this, you’d think statins are wonder drugs. But when you look closely at the research, a different story emerges. Statins have never been shown to be effective for women of any age, men over 65, or men without pre-existing heart disease. Early studies did suggest that statins are effective for men under 65 with pre-existing heart disease, but later, more rigorous clinical trials has not confirmed this benefit.

In addition, statins have been shown to have serious side effects and complications in up to 30% of people who take them. Studies have also shown that the majority of these adverse events go unreported, because doctors are largely unaware of the risks of statins.

Watch the two videos below to learn the whole story.

Video Presentation


  • Statin research summary: lists the eight statin studies performed in 2008 – 2009, including the drugs and populations studied and the results. If you’re currently taking a statin, you might consider printing this out and taking it to your doctor as a springboard for a conversation about whether statins are right for you.


KasteleinJJ, AkdimF, StroesES, for ENHANCE investigators. Simvastatin with or without ezetimibe in familial hypercholesterolemia. N Engl J Med 2008;358:1431-43

O’Riordan M. CASHMERE: no IMT effect with atorvastatin over 12 months. (link)

O’Riordan M. ACHIEVE stopped: IMT study with Niacin/Laropiprant halted by Merck & Co. (link)

Rossebø AB, Pedersen TR, Boman K, et al. Intensive lipid lowering with simvastatin and ezetimibe in aortic stenosis. N Engl J Med 2008;359:1343-56

GISSI-HF Investigators, Tavazzi L, Maggioni AP, Marchioli R, et al. Effect of rosuvastatin in patients with chronic heart failure (the GISSI-HF trial): a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Lancet 2008;372:1231-9

Kjekshus J, Apetrei E, Barrios V, et al. Rosuvastatin in older patients with systolic heart failure. N Engl J Med 2007;357:2248-61

Fellström BC, Jardine AG, Schmieder ME, et al for the AURORA study group. Rosuvastatin and cardiovascular events in patients undergoing hemodialysis. N Engl J Med 2009;360:1395-407

Ridker PM, Danielson E, Fonseca FA, et al, for the JUPITER Study Group. Rosuvastatin to prevent vascular events in men and women with elevated C-Reactive protein. N Engl J Med 2008;359:2195-207

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  1. Christian W’s avatar

    Thanks. Perhaps its the diet that primarily modulates particle size. (Carbs.)

  2. woly’s avatar

    Hello Chris, great series! I was just wondering though, in part 1 you say the statins “dont work” for women of any age and men over 65 etc. What do you mean by “dont work”? Are you referring to all-cause mortality or cardiovascular related mortality?

  3. Chris Kresser’s avatar

    For women with no pre-existing heart disease, statins don’t reduce CVD or total mortality. For women with pre-existing heart disease, statins slightly reduce CVD mortality but don’t reduce total mortality. Total mortality is the most important endpoint, of course, because most people won’t be pleased to trade dying from heart disease with dying from cancer (for example).

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