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Statins: Heart patients get them after op, but doctors don't know why
About the author: 

It's extraordinary just how frequently medicine works with myth rather than fact

It's extraordinary just how frequently medicine works with myth rather than fact. One example is the use of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, which have become one of medicine's holy grails for patients with coronary heart disease.

Heart specialists are convinced that statins are a vital part of patient care, especially after high-risk surgery.

Statins also reduce the risks of developing coronary heart disease among patients at high risk, and the death rate among patients who already have the condition, they believe.

But scratch the surface and you discover that this post-operative medical practice, conducted in every heart unit in the West for decades, is based on just 16 observational studies - which means they're not even properly regulated trials - and on two small studies.

Researchers from the University of Alberta made the discovery when they sifted through 2,373 references for statins. But these reduced down to just the handful of observational studies that provided any meaningful data.

The truth is, the researchers conclude, we just don't know if statins are helping heart patients after surgery.

So what to do? Well, it might be an idea to test the theory once and for all and discover if the statins are helping - or possibly harming - the patient.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2006; 333: 1149-52).

E-news broadcast 7 December 2006 No.316 [Subscribe]


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