In the 70s and 80s, companies worldwide began to tap in to the enormous selling power of marketing, which also happened with the health industry. By showing the public a disease and a prevention, companies could dramatically increase sales.
One such drug that benefited from this was statins, cholesterol reducing drugs. The global statins market is expected to reach US$1 trillion by 2020, treating an estimated 1 billion people worldwide by Medscape. This puts almost 1 in 8 people worldwide on statins, with rates reaching 1 in 3 in some developed countries.
However, experts have long been criticizing the extensive prescribing of statins. In a BBC documentary called “The Men Who Made us Spend”, investigative reporter Jacques Peretti calls statins “the biggest wonder cure to date.” An article published three weeks ago in The New York Times described how studies have found linked between taking statins, muscle pain and exercise. This showed clear disincentives to avoid or perform less exercise in a study with mice. In a country with Mexico’s levels of overweight and obesity, it is important to encourage physical activity. In addition, statins have been tied to increased risk for T2D, already an endemic crisis in Mexico. Other associated side effects are memory loss, cataracts, migraines and kidney problems.
Yet despite the critics, calls for statin prescriptions to be increased have been heard recently. Prescribers argue that the positive benefits far outweigh the negative side effects. Last week, a report from the University of Leicester was published in Science Daily, advising that statins could find another use in reducing the risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) in hospitals, by decreasing the risk of blood clots by 15 to 25 percent. Others have called for healthy people to be given the meds “just in case”.
In a country facing shrinking public health budgets and with very little private insurance, are statins really the preventive answer needed?
BBC Documentary: The Men Who Made us Spend