Are Cholesterol Drugs Over-Prescribed?

For years, they were universally hailed as the most effective weapon in the war against artery-clogging cholesterol. So much so that some cardiologists quipped society should consider adding "statins" to the water.

But recently, the true impact of drugs like Lipitor, Zocor and Crestor has come into question by researchers who suggest for folks without cardiovascular disease, the benefit of statins may be extremely limited and unworthy of the genuine risk of side effects which include muscle aches and in rare cases, memory loss and liver damage.

One recent study found that healthy men who take statins reduce their chance of heart attack by just 6 percent and the benefit is even less among women.

At the Texas Heart Institute cardiologist, Dr. George Younis is among the vast majority of heart specialists advising caution to anyone considering dropping their prescription.

"Basic care with medicines for cardiac disease is much better now than it was 15 or 20 years ago and statins do play a major role in that," said Younis.

Dr. Salim Varani has done extensive research on statins for the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and the Baylor College of Medicine.

He firmly believes those properly prescribed these drugs now can head-off heart attack and stroke decades in the future.

"What we know is that as far as cholesterol is concerned and heart disease is concerned it takes a good 20 or 30 years for heart disease to happen because plaques take that long to develop," explained Varani.

Both cardiologists contend no one should cancel their prescription without first having a serious conversation with their physician.

"They should bring up all these questions that they have when they see their provider. They should not be stopping any medications on their own," advised Varani.

"At the end of the day it comes down to your doctor and you," added Younis.

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