One problem with all the trials of statins is that they look at the probability of still being alive after x years. But that’s not really the question patients want answered. Patients want to know how much longer they can expect to live if they take a statin every day for the rest of their lives. Is it weeks? months? years? decades?
Is there any life left in the cholesterol hypothesis (a.k.a. the lipid hypothesis)? Is there anything left for serious scientists to cling to or is time for its mouldering corpse to end up on the trash heap of medical history, alongside lobotomy, bloodletting and the theory of the four humors? I was asked this question by a reader of this blog recently, and as it happens, a systematic review was recently published in Evidence Based Medicine (my favorite medical journal, mainly because it is edited by the brilliant Dr. Carl Heneghan) that definitively answers this question, so I thought it would be interesting to go through what the evidence says together.
Ok, it’s a silly question I admit. As any physician, and anyone else who thinks about it for a few seconds knows, there is no such thing as saving lives. You can only postpone death. So a more nuanced question is required: “Do statins postpone death?”. My mother sure thinks they do, since she’s been popping an atorvastatin a day for the last couple of years on her GP’s recommendation. Of course, the question gets more complicated when you consider two things: