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Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs May Not Save Lives

Drugs for reducing blood cholesterol levels may not prevent heart attacks after all. Although statins do lower blood cholesterol, many doctors and researchers point out that statin use has not been shown to significantly reduce mortality rates.

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Image: EPA/ TANNEN MAURY

YLE TV1's investigative journalism programme MOT this week challenged many popular notions on cholesterol.

For example, health experts interviewed by MOT emphasised that high cholesterol is only known to be a risk factor in young men. In fact, high cholesterol may even be beneficial in elderly in women, they said.

Interviewees even claimed that lipid-lowering medication may up the risk of premature death.

Scientific studies have meanwhile shown that statins raise chances of developing diabetes and pancreatitis.

Prof. Matti Uusitupa, chair of the Finnish Heart Association, is still a firm believer in the benefits of lowering LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”).

“The majority of serious researchers consider LDL cholesterol to be directly correlated to hardening of the arteries,” he says.

However, Uusitupa admits a grain of truth exists in the provocative assertions made on the show. He says some people may unnecessarily be taking statins. In fact, medical experts have questioned whether prescribing statins as a preventive measure is a sound move.

Statins are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the world. Some 700,000 people take cholesterol-lowering drugs in Finland alone.

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