In an unusual display of rationality, the FDA rejected drug maker Merck and Co.’s bid to make it’s cholesterol lowering statin, Mevacor, available as an over-the-counter medication. Hallelujah! I almost can’t believe it.

Statins lower blood levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) by blocking a key enzyme necessary for the production of these lipoproteins. LDLs, or low density lipoproteins, are known to be precursors of atherosclerotic plaques, which harden the arteries and can lead to such cardiovascular diseases as heart attack and stroke, our leading killers in this country. As a result of this number one killer distinction, modern medical science has championed statin drugs as the savior of American heart health.

But wait, statins are drugs, and all drugs have physiological side effects, some of which can themselves cause illness and disease. To paraphrase 16th century alchemist and physician Paracelsus, “Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.” Ah, so very true. Should we, therefore, really make what’s currently only obtainable by prescription available to the masses at the local drug store?

Well according to some brilliant and sound-minded physicians (and one altruistic pharmaceutical company), the answer is yes. Proponents believe that everyone, not just people with high levels of LDL cholesterol should be on statins. Statins are today’s aspirin, you know, the drug one celebrity doctor claims we should name a town after. Ha, ha, ha. Oh, the folly of it all.

According to one brilliant mind, the sharp intellect known as Dr. David Nash of Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson Medical College, “You should put this drug in the drinking water.” Whoa! Do you all feel as safe as I do? That’s awesome. I’m so happy to see that some of our nation’s most highly esteemed physicians think that mass medication is the answer to our health woes. Even better that they hold so much influence over public health policy. Effin’ right aye!

But, thankfully, wiser heads have prevailed…for now. In a 10-2 vote, an FDA panel rejected Merck’s bid. The panel felt that “too many of the wrong people would use the drug if it no longer required a prescription.” Uh, yeah. They based their conclusions on a study of nearly 1,500 people, where many wanted to buy the drug although they were poor candidates. I guess the drug companies want to maximize profits by pushing out the middle men–namely, doctors! Call me crazy, but I still think the physician is the best person to evaluate a person’s need for a potent drug–yes, even more than television commercials. I know, I’m so yesterday.

Here are some of the risks associated with statin drugs: permanent liver damage, rhabdomyolysis (read about this man’s experience here), nervous system damage, neuropathy, kidney damage, erectile dysfunction, temperature regulation problems, and amnesia (careful, you’ll forget to take your statins). For a more comprehensive list of dangerous side effects linked to statins look here.

Why rely on statins when blood cholesterol can be lowered most effectively through sensible diet (read my book, read my book), exercise, and supplementing with essential fatty acids. Furthermore, we know that LDLs alone are not “bad”. Only when they are oxidized (mostly by free radicals) do they become sticky, leading to plaque formation on the arteries. So by taking a good antioxidant (read my book, read my book), you can seriously lower your risk of developing atherosclerosis.

Unfortunately wellness isn’t as hip as mass medication is in the current health (?) paradigm. Summing up this idea is yet another proponent of mass statin consumption, New York‘s Mount Sinai Medical School physician and Merck consultant, Dr. Valentine Burroughs, “We’re still failing to prevent this epidemic (heart disease). It’s time to take bolder action, to try new approaches.”

Yeah, like spiking our drinking water. Sign me up, man.

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