Weighing the cost/benefit ratio of a drug can be dicey. If a drug saves lives but also happens to be very expensive, you have to allow that perhaps the cost is worth it.
When I was preparing the e-Alert “Ball of Confusion” (3/23/04), I came across a very revealing insight into the cost/benefit ratio of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.
Writing in Red Flags Daily, Malcolm Kendrick, M.D., notes that so far no studies have shown that statin use provides very much protection at all against cardiac-related death. For instance, the Heart Protection Study (HPS) was the largest clinical study ever conducted to test statins on subjects at high risk of coronary events. More than 20,000 people were followed for five years. Results showed that statin use reduced the absolute risk of death by 0.5 percent.
But here’s the kicker: Studies have shown that that’s about the same risk reduction as you would get with daily low-dose aspirin therapy. And of course there are natural alternatives to aspirin – such as bromelain – that have been shown to reduce platelet aggregation safely and effectively.
According to Reuters Health, a typical starting dose of Lipitor runs about $900 per year. So in order to save a single life, patients (and their insurance companies) collectively shell out about $1,800,000 per year. And now researchers have started recommending even more expensive megadoses of statins. If doctors follow this recommendation, the enormous amount of prescription dollars spent on statins – already a burden for many older people – will spike even higher.
Considering that aspirin will apparently save just as many lives, at a fraction of the cost and with no damage to the liver, the cost/benefit ratio of statin drugs continues to not add up.
To Your Good Health,
Health Sciences Institute