The great statin debate: the ultimate two minute guide

Following a second article in the Guardian yesterday devoted to statin supremo Sir Rory Collins, his anger at his critics and impatience with the way the British Medical Journal is shilly-shallying around over getting their incorrect and damaging articles withdrawn, it seemed appropriate to issue a primer to bring non-statin specialists up to speed on this fascinating debate.  And what could be a more appropriate format to use than the Guardian’s brilliant, very own and very handy Pass Notes.

Name: Professor Sir Rory Collins

Age: Nothing about it on Wikipedia but certainly old enough to have been on statins for some years

Appearance: Jekyll face: pleasant-faced academic. Hyde face: hard relentless enforcer of status quo. Don’t mess with me.

And what’s the status quo he’s enforcing? The status of statins; the drugs given to millions to protect their heart.

How can the best-selling drugs ever need protection? Actually it’s not so much the drugs as Sir Rory’s theory about them. His research has shown that they benefit practically everyone and have virtually no side-effects.

So what’s the problem? Give me mine. Trouble is rival researchers have been pointing to flaws in Sir Rory’s work and claiming that actually too few benefit and too many have side effects and Sir Rory has turned very Jekyll-like.

Incredible Hulk stuff? Biff! Bash! Bursting through walls? Metaphorically yes. He’s very cross with the BMJ, the medical journal that published the rivals’ research and demanded the critical papers be withdrawn. He’s told the press that this dissing statins could kill more people than the dangerous dissing of the MMR vaccine.

I won’t stop taking the drugs I believe in science and senior scientists like Sir Rory. Yes but the other guys are good scientists too and if they are right you and millions of others could have more chance of being made ill by the drugs than avoiding a heart attack.

But isn’t the point of big trials to sort out such questions? Indeed and the rival researchers have pointed out two important reasons why Sir Rory’s results may not be as reassuring as he claims.

And he’s going to Biff Bash them into another dimension? Well that’s the curious thing. He has ignored them and just keeps on calling for more action on the rivals’ papers. A conspiracy theorist might think it was a deliberate ploy to distract from the criticism by making a lot of noise about something else.

An eminent scientist engaging in conspiracy? I’ve no evidence of it but why hasn’t he dealt with these two points? First: One of his critics’ papers set out clearly the mistake in Sir Rory’s paper that meant it didn’t show writing more prescriptions would save more lives. Secondly: Why can’t anyone else see his “workings” as they used to be called in GCSE maths – the calculation that led to the conclusion? At the moment they are all hidden.

So less Hyde and more Jekyll? Quite

Do say: I’ve no worries guv. I’m on statins

Don’t say: Could you lend me 100 million quid to run a statin trial that pays proper attention to side effects and is transparent.



  1. There is something contra-indicative about a belief that health can be found in taking a drug, made from synthesized ingredients, for a disease you do not have and may never get, particularly given the side-effect factor.

    More to the point, everyone is different and some people have higher cholesterol levels naturally and perhaps for very good reasons which science/medicine does not yet understand.

    How can this be medicine or health? Everyone is different and the generic pill for everyone is problematic enough, but the entire medical industry is sourced in a belief that the human body can be treated like a machine or bag of chemicals when in fact the body is a complex, individual, unique, self-organising organism with its own purpose, meaning and wisdom, sourced not just in original ‘design’ but in thousands of years of evolution.

    Modern science/medicine has existed for a nanosecond in human terms and the treatment of the body by the medical industry equates as the greatest, and potentially most dangerous, experiment in human history.

    I realise that medicine is sourced in mechanistic and materialist science and the belief that everything can, if not should be, reduced to that mindset, but there is no logic to a belief that nature intended or required an interventionist, artificial, chemical support for basic and enduring human health.

    The human body can cure anything and often doe in the right circumstances – with or without ‘help.’ A well functioning human body can deal with any pathogen without intervention, although clearly some are more robust and resilient than others. If this were not the case then the Black Death would have killed absolutely everyone and none of us would be here having this conversation.

    So how can it be argued that medicating healthy people for diseases they do not have and may never get, given how much science/medicine still does not know or understand about the body, is either necessary or wise?

    • I strongly concur. This is another scam perpetrated by the Big Pharma. I, for one, am not going to poison my liver just to bring down my cholesterol. A good bowl of oatmeal in the am. will do the same thing. Stop eating grease laden snacks and crap. improve your diet. Everyone should be on a gluten free diet, which is a real piece of meat, a real piece of fruit and a real piece of colored veggie. Don’t eat anything that has been ground up and stuck back together.

  2. the cholesterol myths by Uffe Ravnskov, the best info we know of destroying the myths and dangers of statins.

  3. Very well put

  4. The basic case for statins for universal prescribing on an independant evidence basis is completely lacking. Just an anaylsis of the mechanism of action of the drug and the physiological consequences of the resultant alteration of neuro chemical signalling alone tells you that these are not of universal benefit. Curious, he has not declared his commercial affiliations or competing interests. It was my understanding that this is now incumbent on all ethical and academic and medical researchers/authors

  5. Gill Pyrah says:

    Well it made me laugh. Excellent.

  6. Your case is overly Gutenberg and maybe a photo of Sir Rory might give subscribers some insight into why you get so emotional – or why you fancy him. Statins for all, like aspirin for all, is already nonsense. The game is over. It’s a waste of time keeping the score now. Statins may be an enabling drug in that they allow an unhealthy lifestyle which results in muscular pain on exercise and fatigue.

    • Lets draw a veil over the silliness of the photo comment and “Gutenberg” loses me. So impressed that you know what NICE is going to decide on the issue of extended prescribing, although was unclear if you knew they would or they wouldn’t extend. Also impressed that you have such a clear grip on the physiology of statin side effects, sounds like you are a Sr Rory supporter – muscle pain due to patient’s unhealthy life style not to drug.Hmmm. Perhaps you can tell us if it is a done deal becasue of Sir Rory’s influence or becasue it is such a good idea.

      • Climate change is my fatigue. This here used be dry hillside with sea breezes. Now I sweat in the shade with Merlot. Others relish the new climate and come alive, tearing down giant nettle groves to reveal lost apple trees and even a whole Rover car. They glance at me with triumph or derision; whichever they can get away with I suppose. Yet I have to admire their tenacity and focus. “Statins” I could say, but I’m too lazy to lie.

        Never really liked Stats and got 599 when 600 would have given me honours but that’s nothing to what I inferred about the sexual make up of some of the guys who set the questions – the barrack square was 10 yards south of my bedroom window where I was born. I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a random number anyway.

        Congratulations Jerome Burne (I’ll drink to that…). I couldn’t have taken them on and won but I share my moment in your allowing my taking the p<.001 ~ I would have liked that you give opinion about the incidence of disease in Iceland, who rejected austerity, and the incidence of disease in Europe(?) who did not, but go on and play with your statistics. Sure if it wasn't for statistics the whole thing would degenerate into philosophy anyway. I must post this immediately or the stamp will be too wet to stick to the envelope.

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: