Over the past several years, my husband has been under the care of an endocrinologist for the treatment of diabetes. My husband’s overall cholesterol level is good, but his LDL/HDL ratio is not, so at almost every visit, the Dr. has tried to sway him to utilize a statin medication.
What is a statin?
Statins are usually used to lower cholesterol.They work by blocking the body’s ability to produce cholesterol and by helping your body reabsorb plaque that has built up on the artery walls, hopefully preventing additional blockage in the artery and thus preventing heart attacks. However, the use of statins does not come without side effects, which may include depression, muscle pain and weakness, neuropathy, heart failure, dizziness, cognitive impairment, cancer, pancreatitis and liver damage). According to the National Health Alliance, “a recent study shows that the statin drug simvastatin, which the government is advocating we take to lower cholesterol levels, actually weakens our immune system and makes it difficult to fight off bacterial infections.” and that high cholesterol actually protects us against infection!
Now, getting back to my story:
At our first visit, we questioned the Dr. at length about the source of the clinical studies on which he based his recommendation, we felt that the potential risks involved by far outweighed the KNOWN benefits of the drug for a man his age. At almost every visit, my husband listened to the recommendation for a statin drug, but walked away without taking the Rx. A few months ago, my husband was seen by a Nurse Practitioner (NP) instead of by the Doctor. The NP was very patient in answering all of our questions. We asked her about the use of Red Yeast Rice or Niacin in lieu of a statin. She said that she has seen positive results from both and suggested that he try the Red Yeast Rice first and if that did not help, that he try the Niacin.
Last month, the Dr. was still recommending the use of a statin medication. We asked him if it would not be wise for my husband to try Niacin instead, as we had previously discussed with the NP, and he looked at the latest lab results before answering. I must say that I was quite surprised at his response:
He said that he usually prescribes statins to his diabetic patients because it is believed that the statins reduce the risk of coronary disease. However, in my husband’s case, the statins wouldn’t work. In fact, Niacin would be a better option.
He further explained that the reason he recommends niacin instead of a statin is because, in his case the bad cholesterol is fine but the good cholesterol is low. So why did he not recommend niacin earlier?
What if we had never asked?
By the way, when someone begins to take a statin, he/she will probably take the medication for LIFE. Imagine the economic implications associated with this – for both the patient and the pharmaceutical companies. More about this later…
*Note – My husband has graciously given me permission to write about him on this very important topic.