Healthy Living: The Heart Pill Debate

A landmark study has changed how some cardiologists view a popular drug used to lower bad cholesterol. Some are now prescribing it to patients with normal cholesterol. Robyn Haines tells us why they're doing it in today's Healthy Living, and why some doctors think it might do more harm than good.


It's all because of the so-called Jupiter study. Jupiter tested more than 15,000 people with normal LDL levels and high levels of an inflammation biomarker. For the group taking statins, there was between a 40 and 50 percent reduction in the risk of death, stroke, and heart attack.


After less than two years, the 5-year study was cut short because of those findings. Cleveland Clinic Cardiologist Steven Nissen says the study changed the way he practices medicine.


Doctors may use the results to prescribe statins to prevent heart disease. But, UC San Diego's doctor Beatrice Golomb says it's not known with longer term use and in real world users whether the benefits outweigh the real risks. Golomb tells us while some people benefit from statins — others have reported symptoms similar to Alzheimer's. Muscle weakness, nerve damage, and cognitive problems have also been issues.


Doctor Golomb says she'd like to see other, potentially safer, anti-inflammatory agents, like low-dose aspirin, tested to see if the effects are similar or even better than statins.