New Guidelines for Statin Drugs: Watch and Decide!

On Tuesday, Nov 12, two of the nations leading heart organizations—the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology– released new guidelines on the use of statin drugs for the prevention of heart disease.

The new guidelines—about which more in a moment—are a giant step forward towards the goal of having every American over the age of 40 on a statin drug.


Having co-written a best selling book titled The Great Cholesterol Myth, I’ve been asked by many to comment. And I’d like to start by saying one word…


No, I’m not going to blame the new statin drug guidelines on the President. Rather, I want to illustrate something by doing a kind of thought exercise with you, and I picked a word– Obamacare– about which everyone seems to have a strong opinion.

Now regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, regardless of your views on the Affordable Care Act, or on President Obama himself, every single person reading this—including Tea Partiers and Occupy Wall Street-ers—should be able to agree on one fact: The truth about Obamacare—or  the Iraq war, for that matter, or, for goodness sake, any other hot button issue—depends completely on who you ask.

And– as we’ll see-the same is true about statin drugs.

Ask the Republicans about Obamacare and they’ll say one thing. They’ll emphasize the horrific website roll-out. They’ll point to the people who lost their existing policies, or to the few whose rates went up. They’ll quote studies and surveys that project massive costs to the middle class.

But ask the Democrats, and they’ll point to the millions of people who will now have insurance. They’ll talk about the people who can’t be kicked off their policies because of pre-existing conditions. And they’ll quote studies and surveys that project massive savings to the middle class.

My point here is not to debate the Affordable Care Act. It’s to say that the exact same thing happens all the time in science. Seriously. And to think otherwise is to profoundly misunderstand the nature of science and commerce in modern society.

So the statin promoters have studies to show they “work”. (Are you surprised?) They will use those studies—which my side believes to be deeply flawed– to promote their position. We, on the other hand, will point to studies that show that no lives are saved by using statins. (In fact, in many studies more deaths occur from diabetes or cancer in the statin-treated group than in the placebo group.) And we would point to studies that suggest that statin treatment for people without existing heart disease, for women, for the elderly, and (definitely!) for children has not been shown to be particularly beneficial and may, in some cases, be downright harmful.

Statin Drugs Are Unneccessary for Almost Everyone

(Please notice I said “almost”. I am not anti-statin drug. I am anti- statin OVERUSE.

There’s no doubt that statins have a place in the treatment of middle aged men with existing cardiovascular disease, people with familiar hypercholesterolemia, and that they do a number of “good” things such as thin the blood and act as an anti-inflammatory. But I do not think they are without risks and side effects– many of them serious– and therefore it’s hard to make the case for using them in populations where you get all the risks and very little benefit.)

So here’s my take on statin drugs:

  • Statins have not been shown to significantly prevent heart attacks in people without existing heart disease.
  • Statins have not been shown to be particularly effective in women. No study shows that a single woman’s life has been saved by lowering cholesterol.
  • Statins have not been shown to be protective in the elderly—quite the opposite, in fact. In the Framingham study, those with the highest cholesterol lived the longest.
  • Statins are being wildly overprescribed for populations in which they have shown little appreciable benefit (the elderly, women, healthy middle aged men) and in which they may cause irreparable harm (children).
  • The new recommendations abandoned the goal of lowering cholesterol to a target number because it never worked in the first place. By making the new focus incredibly broad—statins for everyone!–  they effectively doubled the customer base for statin drugs.

I guess, if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool optimist, you could find some good news buried in the new recommendations, which is this: the new recommendations recognize that the old recommendations sucked. “The question is not whether a drug makes your lab tests better, but whether it lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke”, writes Harlan M. Krunholz, MD, in the New York Times.

“Studies over the past several years have shown that improving your lab profile with drugs is not equivalent to lowering your heart risks”.

Which is what we say in “The Great Cholesterol Myth”. Trying to lower the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol is like trying to cut calories by taking the lettuce off your Whopper. High cholesterol and heart disease are not the same thing, and cholesterol should not be the primary target of our efforts to reduce heart attacks.

The Drug Companies Hate This New Documentary

This is a great time to suggest that you watch part two of that extraordinary documentary I told you about last week. In case you missed it, the documentary was hosted by Dr. Maryanne Demasi, and aired on the prestigious Australian Broadcasting Company network. The first part is on cholesterol and saturated fat.

But the second part—the program on statins  is the one I’d like to direct your attention to.

Worth noting is that this really IS a documentary “they” didn’t want you to see. Major organizations in the medical establishment fought tooth and nail to get ABC not to air this documentary on statin drugs, fearing that people would “throw away their medications” and would die as a result.

Well, I never recommend that people “throw away their meds” without supervision and a frank discussion with trusted health professionals.

But I do have a feeling that if people knew the truth about statin drugs they’d have a whole different feeling about popping them like candy.

Here’s the second part of the ABC documentary on cholesterol and statins. It’s one of the best pieces of reporting I’ve seen in a while, and I urge you to watch it.

As always, let me know what you think!




  1. Perry

    What are you to do? “Just say no”

    • Scott

      I totally agree, I have what Jonny would call “metabolic disorder” and this comes with a slightly high cholesterol. I was on a generic statin and had aches and pains, was lethargic and as soon as I mentioned these symptoms my doctor said it was the statin. Now I am on a more expensive name brand statin with the same albeit less intense symptoms. I am reading Jonny’s book and trying to figure out why I am on a drug that makes me feel bad to reduce a blood level that doesn’t matter. I have never believed in one solution for everyone course and a “everybody over 40 should be on a statin” doesn’t make sense to even consider. What is wrong with healthcare these days (note, I am a medical technologist so I do know something about blood chemistry and have been in the healthcare field for over 25 years). One of the worst things that has happened in healthcare is flowchart medicine directed by the insurance companies. Doctors no longer practice medicine, they take very described steps and equally described reactions to the results. And you simply can’t argue with them, they just make you sign a disclaimer.

  2. Thomas

    I REALLY wish would air here in the US. I really don’t like that the federal government blesses this stuff …. especially since they are trying to REFORM health care.

    Big Pharma must contribute a lot to somebody’s campaign.

    Next up, sleep studies for everyone. The FAA is calling for sleep studies to have all pilots tested for sleep apnea. It starts with pilots with a BMI over 40. This is the first step. They have already stated that they believe that 30% of the population with a normal BMI has this condition therefore we need to test them all.

    More wasteful spending to treat a problem that does not exist.

    I refuse to take statins. It’s just the beginning of the slippery slope that leads to more medication.

    You’ll find me at the gym instead.

  3. Susan

    This is truly frightening. Big Pharma has so much power and manipulates us at every turn and they get away with it. I’m sticking with unprocessed foods and exercise and hoping for the best!

  4. Wendy

    Great timing, as my doctor just quoted the study to me while discouraging me from pursing more in depth blood test. No conversation about food or exercise except to try but for now take this statin. Seems there is the opportunity for conversation. Won’t be easy but we have to start somewhere. These two videos are a great start. Thank you.

  5. Mahena

    Well said, Jonny. Thanks for the research and the presentation in your recent film interview. As always, you are on top of things and what is wonderful is the fact that you share with us. Keep us posted. Love it.

  6. Natascha

    Thank you for always looking out for us Jonny!
    It really is frightening what is going on.
    Keep educating us, and the increasing body of health conscious people will spread the word, making healthier choices. There is currently a strong trend for healthier living, and awareness will have people voice and choose what they want, and do not want.
    Thank you for your tireless efforts and devotion to making things better and improving our lives!

  7. Guillaume

    Long time reader, never posted though. Thanks for sharing such information, it is very interesting. I have ordered your book too and should receive it this week. Thank you very much for all your work.

  8. Nancy

    Thank you for showing these videos. I am 63 years with no sign of heart disease except for high cholesterol that kept going up in spite of keeping my wt down and following a “low fat” diet. I was convinced to start on a statin even though heart scan, EKG and exercise tests were all normal. My father had high Cholesterol and died of a heart attack. My mother used to have high cholesterol & was on a statin. She no longer is on a statin and is 92 years old and never had a heart attack or stroke. I recently stated a gluten free diet (the Virgin diet) and lost 12 lbs over 2 months. I had already decided to have a talk with my doctor to have a trial without the statin and then recheck my cholesterol. Watching these videos have helped convince me that I am making the best move.
    Thanks again.

  9. Richard T Webb

    Read your book, really wanted to ask a question..But later.. Here and now been treated for 40 plus years with every one of the cholesterol lowering “devices” (some are obsolete now) and still not under the physican’s control limit (LDL <70) Two things lowwe my cholesterol, weight loss and stress relief.. But Here is the point. Just realized that HbA1C results, muscle pain and weakness, depression and Neuropathy may MAY be due to the continuous statin use. Bipass surgery in April this year scheduled for another cath tomorrow .. 6 months?? same electrical results as pre bipass from stress test.. Question: How much do statins effect HbA1C? Could this be and will lowerin LDL to 70 with crestor even help.

    • Dr. Jonny Bowden

      I spoke with Dr. Mark Houston about this, and yes, statins can raise HbA1C. How much would be a subjective determination.

  10. Greg Stewart MD

    Thanks for all your work. Really enjoyed The Cholesterol Myth. I also enjoyed listening to you in San Diego at the American College of Nutrition conference. Could you please comment on the new Cochrane Collaboration 2013 that is so supportive of increased use of statins vs the 2010 version. Thanks again.


  11. Laura

    Well said. I read the Cholesterol Myth, and have a question. Since sugar is the true demon,not saturated fat, is there any reason that your Cholesterol Myth Cookbook includes honey as a sweetner instead of xylitol?

    • Dr. Jonny Bowden

      I don’t remember the exact recipe, but it was probably a small amount that worked in that particular recipe.

  12. Nora

    I am on Lipitor going on 15-20 years. When first diagnosed with high cholesterol, the doc wanted me to go on statins but I refused for several years. I finally relented after watching my diet and the cholesterol did not lower. Also, after an echo-cardiogram test, I was asked if I had a previous heart attack. I was told that a portion of my heart was not beating like the remainder and there was signs of scar tissue in the part not moving like the rest of my heart. Prescribed Beta blocker pills caused gastrointestinal problems, which ceased when taken off them. Several years later after another stress test, the hospital physician said there were no signs I had a heart attack. To this day, I wonder how I could have had a heart attack as I was told and then several years later be told I did not have any heart attack. When I asked why the different diagnosis, I was told that the hospital was using newer, better equipment. Now I am told that I have to take Lipitor to avoid any more build up of fat deposits or cholesterol in the veins leading to or in my heart.

    I am very puzzled. I don’t eat much processed food or go to Burger King often. I eat healthy foods too, although I do like dark chocolate occasionally. My father had triple by-pass surgery and my mother died of a heart attack after a colonoscopy at a hospital. I am tired in the afternoon and need to nap. I wonder if my tiredness is due to being 70 or if it is the Lipitor. I know you are not a doctor but ask your opinion. Thank you in advance.

  13. carol

    Why is this video “no longer available”?

    • Michelle Mosher

      Hi Carol,
      You may have noticed that we just unveiled our bright and shiny new website! We are still in the process of working out all the kinks. Thank you for bringing this to our attention! We will get it fixed ASAP.


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