The conventional wisdom is that powerful pharmaceuticals (which can kill) are not to be used too much, meaning without extensive diagnostic work-ups. Certainly, the idea is that powerful pharmaceuticals must not be given to normal healthy people even in an experimenta trial.
Massive overwhelming evidence from a huge experiment shows dramatic benefits of statins for people who do not have high blood cholesterol but do have "high levels of a protein called high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, or CRP, which indicates inflammation in the body."
The study, presented Sunday at an American Heart Association convention in New Orleans and published online in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that the risk of heart attack was more than cut in half for people who took statins.
Those people were also almost 50 percent less likely to suffer a stroke or need angioplasty or bypass surgery, and they were 20 percent less likely to die. The statin was considered so beneficial that an independent safety monitoring board stopped what was supposed to be a five-year trial last March after less than two years.
However, the consensus of the profession appears to be pretty much to ignore the study
The study is sparking debate over who should take a blood test to check CRP and under what circumstances someone with high CRP should be given a statin. Because heart disease is a complex illness affected by many risk factors — including smoking, hypertension, being overweight and having a family history of heart disease — most researchers said high CRP alone should not justify prescribing statins to people who have never had heart problems.
Some experts cautioned against testing people for CRP unless they had other indications of being at risk for heart disease, and they said more research was needed to pinpoint the patients for whom the benefit of statins outweighs the risks. Others recommended testing more frequently and using statins for people with low cholesterol if they have high CRP and some other risk factors.
Now lets understand. The study was stopped early, because it was considered un-ethical to give placebos to some of the patients.
Now it might make sense to attempt further study to find if there are people with elevated CRP would benefit from not getting statins. Given the results to date, it seems to be at least arguable that a study to determine if placebo works better than statin for some such patients would be absolutely immoral and unethical even if they gave informed consent. It seems to me insane to assume the results of such a study and give the recommendation for treatment "no statins if the patients just fit the criteria of the study which showed a 20% decline in mortality with statins but don't have other characteristics."
An experiment with a new alternative drug called "placebo" would almost certainly not be approved even if patients were told of the results of the study and signed a form swearing that they wanted to give placebo a trial even though they fit the characteristics of a group in a trial where placebo treatment implied a 20% increase in death rates.
Just doing it without explaining anything to the patients is fine however.
Some decades from now I want a calculation of how many lives were saved or lost, because people with high CRP but not the other characteristics were not prescibed statins and I want the un-named advocates of that approach to be named.
In exchange I would be glad to promise that if their advice doesn't cause a positive number of human deaths I will surrender my left testicle.
The attitude of critics of the alleged overuse of pharmaceuticals (Sidney Wolfe allowed his name to be used) is to me indistinguishable from that of global warming deniers. They recommend not doing something which the evidence, such as it is, supports because there should be more studies.
The article by PAM BELLUCK stresses the risks of statins and the fact that subgroups within the study might have benefits less than those risks. That would principally be a risk of death of one in one million. How excellent would the other risk factors have to be to identify a group with high CRP who would have longer life expectancy without Statins ? Has any such differential in the benefits of statins ever been found (including in animal studies)? Ask an expert.
Oh and what about giving statins to people who are perfectly normal and healthy in every way. Are their benefits ? Do they outweigh the risks ? We have no 0 (zero) evidence on this, because no such experiment has been performed or would ever be allowed. I don't know about animal studies. I certainly think that a study of the effect of statins on life expectancy in normal mammals would be interesting.