'Heaven can wait' trills the advertisement for Zocor, a cholesterol-lowering drug from Merck. But for how long? might be the cynical rider.
The dangers to the liver of Zocor (generic name: simvastatin) are well documented, but are worth repeating. A doctor worth his salt should be carrying out regular tests on your liver function while you're on the drug because it can easily raise to danger levels the natural serum count. Those who have been heavy drinkers, or have had previous history of liver problems, should be particularly mindful.
But the cholesterol-lowering drugs have come under the microscope for another reason recently. Researchers from the University of California have claimed that the drugs, and in particular the fibrates and statins, are cancer-inducing. So strongly do they hold their views that they are recommending people to avoid the whole family of drugs unless they are at high short-term risk of coronary heart disease.
The researchers say that cancer tests on rodents have been misunderstood by the regulatory bodies, and that the drugs are far more carcinogenic than had been thought.
When questioned about this, one manufacturer said that animal tests were far from reliable because their physical makeup and ours is different.
The response beggars two questions: does this apply only if research goes against you, and if this is true, why do animal tests at all? According to the Californian research team, the drugs are creating a cancer timebomb. If true, heaven may indeed wait, but could be paid back with interest.