Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Man Against the Statin Machine

A proposed movie plot: a patient with a serious but treatable medical condition goes to a rehab center, where his condition isn't treated, he's given drugs that make him worse, and so he has to stay and pay for his board. Problem: something similar has already been done, both in the movies and real life.

This was the danger my father was in. Almost a month ago, he had a stroke and went to a rehab center, where he made some progress but stalled. Under Medicare rules, he had to leave or pay full freight for continuing to stay there. The discharge coordinator offered no help to our family. What's worse, the pain in his side was never diagnosed, just treated with a pain patch, and he was given a statin drug without his consent. Statin drugs can cause muscle weakness, fatigue and foggy thinking--some of the reasons my father couldn't go home right away. And according to what I've read, there's no evidence they do any good for people over age 65. Dad is 82. He tried statin drugs before but quit them because they made his arms hurt.

Nevertheless, Dad rallied himself today, made his bed, packed his bags, and demanded my brother take him home. I discovered the statin drugs while sorting his pills tonight. I don't know whether the doctor at the rehab center deliberately tried to make an invalid out of my father, but my friend Deb Flentje says it happens. (A lot of doctors aren't evil, though, they're just hacks--another reason I didn't go to the emergency room last Saturday night.) 

I'm hopeful that without the statins, my father can make more progress.

The videos below are about statins.

For further reading about statins and cholesterol:
The Great Cholesterol Myth by Dr. Malcom Kendrick.
Numbers Needed to Treat: Statin Drugs
Cardiologist William Davis's articles about statins
Dr. Briffa's articles on statins


Sidereal said...

Hi Lori, I'm sorry to hear about your dad. He's very lucky to have a daughter as clued-in as you who can advocate for him. Most of my elderly patients are completely at the mercy of the medical machine.

I just wanted to point something out in relation to that Kendrick video about the lack of correlation between average cholesterol level and heart disease across countries that I've seen posted all over the paleosphere allegedly disproving the cholesterol hypothesis. Heart disease occurs at the level of an individual organism, not at the level of a population. The fact that average level of something in a population doesn't correlate with an outcome that occurs within an individual means nothing and could simply be an example of the ecological fallacy. Not that I believe in the cholesterol hypothesis; the bulk of my diet consists of saturated fat. Still, it irks me to see stuff like this used as evidence.

Lori Miller said...

Thanks, Sidereal. My father is still home and continuing to make progress.

I think the Kendrick video is useful for showing that the lipid hypothesis (high cholesterol levels lead to heart disease) isn't the no-brainer so many people believe it is. There are intelligent people who've looked at the evidence (or lack of it) and are skeptical about it.

For other readers: That the WHO MONICA study (where Kendrick's data came from) didn't show a relationship between fatal heart attacks among men in certain countries and cholesterol levels doesn't mean there couldn't be one if you looked at the data differently. (Also, the lack of relationship that Kendrick charted was part of the first main null hypothesis of the WHO MONICA study, and you can't prove a null hypothesis.)

This reminds me of last year when I was on jury duty. I was disturbed by those (who all seemed like middle-class, educated people) who told the judge that the defendant should have to provide evidence of his innocence, even if the state had nothing. It doesn't work that way, either in American law or science. The burden of proof is on the one making the claim. For some of us, the evidence of the benefit of knocking down cholesterol isn't there, or isn't enough.

From what I understand, the relationship between cholesterol and heart disease is more complicated than high total cholesterol causing heart disease, and far more complicated than the idea that eating bacon cheeseburgers will give you a heart attack.