August 4, 2017

The Scourge of Statin Denial: A Portrait in Numbers (Infographic)

The stakes of — and reasons behind — the ‘cult of statin denial’

Unfounded public distrust of statin drugs contributes to “shockingly low” statin adherence rates and is fueled by a proliferation of online misinformation about statins and cholesterol. So argues Cleveland Clinic Cardiovascular Chair Steven Nissen, MD, in an editorial in Annals of Internal Medicine.

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This infographic lays out some interesting numbers behind this phenomenon, which Dr. Nissen dubs the “cult of statin denial.” For more detail, including how physicians can counter this trend, see this related post and Dr. Nissen’s full editorial.

“Statins have developed a bad reputation with the public, a phenomenon driven largely by proliferation on the Internet of bizarre and unscientific but seemingly persuasive criticism of these drugs,” writes Dr. Nissen. As one sign of the extent of the phenomenon, he cites these sobering stats: The 655,000 search engine results yielded by the term statin benefits are utterly dwarfed by the 3,530,000 results produced by the term statin risks.

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“We are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of our patients to Web sites developed by people with little or no scientific expertise,” he continues, noting that these sites primarily propagate one or both of two key notions:

  • Statin denial, the idea that cholesterol is not related to heart disease
  • Statin fear, the proposition that lowering serum cholesterol causes serious adverse effects

Far too often the result is that patients discontinue their statin therapy or forgo it in the first place, resulting in “shockingly low” statin adherence rates that often have grave consequences, Dr. Nissen argues.

This leads him to conclude that “[p]assive acceptance of harmful pseudoscience is not an option.” He argues that thoughtful physicians “must work together to educate the public and enlist media support, and we must take the time to explain to our patients that discontinuing statin treatment may be a life-threatening mistake.”

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