New Non-Statin Drugs Come at a High Price
The Good: While high cholesterol is a health problem that plagues those consuming the typical American diet, it is a condition that in most cases is easily treated and reversed. I have seen cholesterol levels drop dramatically simply by switching to the Starch-Smart® System. That means eating beans, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains while avoiding added oils. You can learn more about the specifics of this eating style at my Starch-Smart® System levels page. The results I see in my practice are not unusual for doctors who regularly treat their patients with optimal nutrition. While we can manage high cholesterol with drugs, we can actually attack the cause of high cholesterol with a fork. Going to the grocery store rather than the pharmacy is actually a delicious way to treat and reverse high cholesterol.
The Bad: Last week (September of 2015) The New York Times reported on the release of two new cholesterol-lowering medications. "The drugs — Praluent, made by Sanofi Regeneron, and Repatha, made by Amgen — have shown phenomenal results in driving down the levels of so-called bad cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, in patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease who don’t respond to or can’t tolerate statins."
In one trial, Praluent lowered LDL cholesterol 25 milligrams per deciliter of blood and some researchers have reported even lower numbers.
According to the Times article, there are a few problems with these new wonder drugs. For example, the article says that research hasn't discovered whether or not it's dangerous to have LDL levels so low and thatthere's no evidence that the new drugs will prevent heart attacks, heart failure, or strokes. Trials are underway and the information should be ready by sometime in 2017, although the drugs are currently available to be prescribed. However, the Times should have said that "research hasn't discovered whether or not it's dangerous to have LDL levels so low WITH DRUGS." We have VERY solid science in the Framingham Heart Study (conducted with thousands of test subjects over decades) which shows that LDL cholesterol levels that naturally (apart from medication) fall below 80 ARE indeed associated with lower rates of heart disease and strokes. The work of Dean Ornish, M.D., and Caldwell Esselstyn Jr. M.D., clearly show that lowering LDL cholesterol levels with a low-fat, oil-free, whole-food, plant-based diet does help to prevent strokes, heart failure, and heart attacks. For more information regarding how these drugs lower risk factors for cardiovascular disease, without addressing the underlying cause, see our blog Die Sooner With Good Looking Numbers.
The Ugly: The Times reported that the new drugs are getting attention from the medical community for another reason: price. Both drugs cost upwards of $14,000 per year. Keep in mind that cholesterol-lowering medications are expected to be taken for a lifetime. The Journal of the American Medical Association has said that if the drugs were widely prescribed, they "would likely be the most costly class of medications marketed thus far." And who bears that cost? It's not just the patients, but society as a whole in the form of higher health insurance premiums.
The Choice: Patients are understandably discouraged when their blood-work indicates high cholesterol, and I tell them they need help to lower it. Instead of recommending medications to lower their lipids, I assure them that by adopting our Starch-Smart System, they likely don't have to be one of the thousands who take pills for the rest of their lives. Those patients that are already taking medications when they first come to see me can often safely lower and eliminate their need for these medications. Getting off medication requires that I carefully work with my patients individually. It's a journey of joy for me to see my patients reaching their goals as they discover the huge variety of foods that supportoptimal health.
Each of us has to make the choice. We can choose to pay the price and take the risks associated with cholesterol-lowering drugs and keep our diseased arteries, our donuts, and our double-cheese burgers. Or we can choose to naturally bring down our cholesterol and heal our cardiovascular system with oil-free, low-fat, plant-based eating. It's really that simple: pills for the rest of our lives or abundant plates of deliciousness for the rest of our lives. Read my page on the Starch-Smart® System and begin building your health bite by bite!