How many people need to develop diabetes or memory loss before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decides to take action? Far too many! The FDA announced yesterday that it was issuing new warnings to be put on the labels of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, cautioning that they can cause “hyperglycemia” (in other words, type 2 diabetes) as well as memory loss and confusion.
To start with, the diabetes message has been out for years! Several years ago, the large-scale JUPITER study unearthed the statin-diabetes connection; followed by a report that high-dose statins can increase the risk of diabetes, and finally a third report gave even more fuel to the statin-diabetes connection. If you missed my blog on this, you can see it here. But only now has the FDA decided to take action.
The link between statins and memory loss isn’t new either. I wrote an entire article about this issue five years ago. At that time, a retired professor of business law and computer science was taking the statin drug Zocor to lower his cholesterol, and was diagnosed with rapidly progressing probable Alzheimer’s disease. It got to the point that he had trouble carrying on conversations and recognizing people he’d known for 20 years. But after stopping the Zocor, his cognitive function returned to normal.
Folks, statins are bad news for the brain, times three! First off, your brain needs cholesterol in order to function. Take away that cholesterol and your memory and cognitive function falters. Second, statins block the action of coenzyme Q10, which your brain cells need. Finally, statins appear to adversely affect tau, a protein made by brain cells that helps maintain their structure.
But changing the warning labels on statins isn’t the only thing the FDA did this week—they also made a risky move! They decided to no longer recommend liver enzyme screenings of people taking statins. Instead, they’re only recommending screening before statins are started. This is an outrage! A large-scale study published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed people taking either 10 mg or 80 mg of Lipitor for an average of 4.9 years, and the high-dose groups had enzymes indicative of liver damage that was six times higher than the low-dose group! If the FDA wanted to do a real service to the public, they would take these dangerous drugs off the market.
What’s my bottom line for you? If you are taking a statin drug, talk to your doctor about getting off it. There are far safer means of lowering your cholesterol and, more important, reducing your risk of heart disease. Should you decide to continue taking a statin, make sure you’re also taking 100–200 mg of coenzyme Q10 every day.
Now it’s your turn: What’s your opinion on the FDA’s actions?