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.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

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.


“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.”


Related Articles

February 19, 2021
Cleveland Clinic at 100: A Novel Practice Model Shapes a Century of Cardiovascular Care

How our first century has impacted cardiovascular practice

November 27, 2020
Digital Health in Electrophysiology and Beyond: The Potential and the Challenges

Review offers comprehensive assessment of the landscape for wearables and more

September 17, 2020
Polishing the Gold Standard: Reporting Multiplicity in Randomized Clinical Trials

Preserving trust in research requires vigilance and consensus around statistical nuances

July 21, 2020
New Staff Surgeon Explains His Affinity for the Aorta and Why He Stayed on After Residency

Cardiac surgeon Patrick Vargo, MD, reflects on his first year as Cleveland Clinic staff

June 12, 2020
Early-Career Cardiac Surgeon Finds a Place to Pair Patient Experience With Research Innovation

Improved risk prediction for patients is at the heart of Dr. Aaron Weiss’ research interests

June 2, 2020
Should Cardiothoracic Surgery Be Regionalized in the U.S.?

Centralization would likely bring better outcomes, experts say, but may not be feasible

May 27, 2020
What Drew One Young Cardiothoracic Surgeon to Cleveland Clinic

Dr. Daniel Burns on mentorship, robotic valve surgery, statistics and more

April 17, 2020
It’s Time to Cover Endovascular Treatment of Asymptomatic Carotid Artery Stenosis

JACC review makes the case and outlines how to ensure oversight