Last week, I wrote about the "cholesterol con,"
the widespread belief that "bad Cholesterol" ( LDL cholesterol) is a major factor driving heart disease, and that cholesterol-lowering drugs like Lipitor and Crestor can protect us against fatal heart attacks. These drugs, which are called "statins," are the most widely-prescribed pills in the history of human medicine. In 2007 world-wide sales totaled $33 billion. They are particularly popular in the U.S., where 18 million Americans take them.
We thought we knew how they worked. But last month, when Merck/Schering Plough finally released the dismal results of a clinical trial of Zetia, a cholesterol-lowering drug prescribed to about 1 million people, the medical world was stunned. Dr. Steven E. Nissen, chairman of cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic called the findings
"shocking." It turns out that while Zetia does lower cholesterol levels, the study failed to show any measurable medical benefit.