Our story last time about the dangers of statins has clearly struck a chord with drug regulators in the UK who are now making them available over-the-counter.
So anyone can pop into their local pharmacy and pick up a supply of these great drugs that apparently every year save the lives of 7,000 patients with very high cholesterol levels.
Even though they have been available only by prescription, the statins have quickly become the most successful drug family, worth $20 billion each year, and are now the most profitable in the rich history of the drug industry.
Drugs regulators have removed the last restriction on sale, and so the sky’s the limit for the manufacturers. Trouble is, statins aren’t quite as safe as the regulators and manufacturers would have you believe. They can cause heart failure, liver and kidney damage, and a potentially fatal muscle-wasting disorder called rhabdomyolysis.
One statin, Baycol, was withdrawn in 2001 after 31 people died from drug-induced rhabdomyolysis, while 601 further cases, and 38 deaths, were reported to the US Food and Drug Administration.
So what do our ever-vigilant drug watchdogs do? Stack ’em high, and sell ’em cheap.
(Source: What Doctors Don’t Tell You, May 2004, and BBC, 12 May 2004).