Cleveland Clinic Cardiologist Nissen Likens Anti-Statin “Internet Cult” to Anti-Vaxxers | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Researchers studied over 28,000 patients in Massachusetts and found three in 10 stopped taking statins after experiencing side effects, which were presumed to be due to the drugs. Some 8.5% of them had a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke, within four years -- versus 7.6% of those who continued taking statins.


"That's a very significant number," said Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Dr. Steven Nissen, who was not involved in the study but penned an accompanying editorial in the same journal.


One expert questioned whether his findings had much to do with statins at all.

"We don't know what (else) was different about the groups," said Dr. Rita Redberg, a professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco. Redberg was not involved in Turchin's research. "People that take medicines and are adherent do better than people that don't."


For example, those who take medications consistently might also eat better or exercise more, Redberg added. So a "small difference" between the groups "isn't that revealing," she said.


Nissen said that statins have developed a "bad reputation with the public," largely due to websites that peddle scary and unscientific claims about statins.


"We have a large number of people in the public that have been convinced by this internet cult that statins are bad for you," said Nissen, who compared the trend to discussions surrounding vaccines and climate change. "How did we get into this kind of a mess?"


These claims, Nissen said, could actually increase reported side effects. The more patients are aware -- and perhaps fearful -- of statins and their side effects, the more likely they are to report those side effects. This phenomenon is known as the "nocebo effect," the opposite of the placebo effect.