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Statin Denialism

The benefits of statins far outweigh their risks, but public perception has been skewed by alarmist misinformation from statin denialists.

When Richard Dawkins was asked to justify his belief in the scientific method, he answered, “It works, bitches!”1 When the scientific evidence is compelling, one would have to be willfully perverse to reject it. But some people do; they reject findings that don’t fit with their ideology. We call them denialists. We have climate change denialists, HIV/AIDS denialists, vaccine denialists, evolution denialists, even germ theory denialists. And we have statin denialists.

Statins work, bitches! But the public perception has been skewed by alarmist misinformation from statin denialists.

A Hilarious Example of Statin Denialist propaganda

Statin denialists rely on “alternative facts”; in other words: lies. The worst example of anti-statin misinformation I have ever seen is a YouTube interview with Dr. Leonard Coldwell. Not a word of what he says is true, and much of it is hilariously funny. Some of his statements are so obviously ridiculous that it’s hard to believe they wouldn’t leave even the most scientifically naive viewer rolling on the floor. Who is Leonard Coldwell? He has no medical or scientific credentials, yet he claims to be the world’s leading authority on cancer and to have treated over 35,000 cancer patients with a 92.3 percent cure rate. I think even Alice’s White Queen, having practiced believing as many as six impossible things before breakfast, would find that hard to swallow.

For your entertainment, I will provide the complete transcript of Coldwell’s deliciously absurd video2 along with my reality checks that are italicized and noted in brackets. To begin with, the interviewer says a number of statins have been pulled off the market.

[A little rudimentary fact-checking reveals that the number of statin-containing products removed from the market is three, and two of those were mixtures of statins with other drugs. The statins in those mixtures remain on the market, so the true number is one: Baycol, or cerivastatin, was voluntarily withdrawn from the market when post-marketing surveillance showed that it was five to ten times more likely than other statins to cause a serious complication, rhabdomyolysis.]

When the interviewer asks his opinion of statins, Coldwell says: “It’s mass murder. [Murder is premeditated killing. Does he really think doctors are deliberately trying to kill patients?] It always leads to hardening of the liver, [No, statins actually reduce the risk of cirrhosis of the liver.3] it cuts off at least twenty years of your life span. [Nonsense! It does just the opposite, particularly for patients at high risk of cardiovascular events.] Your brain is made from cholesterol. [Maybe if you’re a fathead! For the rest of us, our brain is made of a lot of other things in addition to cholesterol.] Statin is a cholesterol-lowering drug. So, if you want to have a brain that’s the size of a marble, keep on taking them. [Whaaat? No one has ever had a brain that’s the size of a marble for any reason; and the brains of patients on statins are the same size as the brains of patients not on statins.] You do not die of too much cholesterol, you die of not enough. [You don’t die of either; you die of heart attacks and strokes, and reducing highcholesterol levels reduces your risk of those events.] There is no such thing as too much cholesterol. [Yes, there most certainly is. People with familial hypercholesterolemia die prematurely.] In a burn unit, we use twenty to twenty-eight hard-boiled eggs a day, in a burn victim, [He just made that up. No burn unit does that, and if they tried it, the patients would surely rebel.] because we know only cholesterol builds healthy cells. [Only cholesterol? How silly! A lot of other components are required to build healthy cells.] Every cell in your system, 87 percent of the new cell, is built from cholesterol. [No, it isn’t! Lipids account for half the mass of cell membranes, and cholesterol makes up 20 percent of those lipids.4] Where does this cholesterol come from? They just made up the number of 250; they just made it up. [No, they didn’t! They measured cholesterol levels in large populations and found that people with higher levels of cholesterol were more likely to have heart attacks.] There’s no science, no nothing. They tested a couple of people living in a trailer park, from trash that they eat, [That’s insulting to people who live in trailer parks, and it’s demonstrably not true. Much of the original information about cholesterol and cardiovascular risk came from a large study that recruited a cross-section of people living in Framingham, Massachusetts, a prosperous town with no excess of trailer parks.] and they came up with the average is kind of like 250 of combined cholesterol. And that’s what everyone should have. [No one is recommending that everyone have 250 of combined cholesterol. Risk is determined not just by total cholesterol but by levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol, and of other lipid subfractions, as well as other risk factors such as smoking and diabetes.] It’s completely artificially made up. [No, it’s based on solid science.] I have patients who have a cholesterol of 600; they’re the healthiest people, never been sick.” [Never been sick yet. Patients with a cholesterol of 600 are at high risk of cardiovascular events and death, and it is irresponsible for a doctor not to treat such high levels.]

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Surviving the Misinformation Age Vaccines, Autism, and the Promotion of Irrelevant Research: A Science-Pseudoscience Analysis Statin Denialism
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