Antidote: Lipitor

As a fan, prescriber, and consumer of Pfizer's blockbuster cholesterol-lowering statin drug Lipitor, I've long joked that in addition to increasing exercise and improving diet, patients with a high cholesterol should consider eating their hot fudge sundaes with a dose of Lipitor on top. This idea was meant as a joke, but now a London study published in the American Journal of Cardiology has taken the idea seriously. The authors analyzed study data from 42,800 patients and determined that while a 7-oz fast food cheeseburger and a small milkshake increases the risk of developing heart disease by 23%, on the other hand taking most statin drugs decreases the risk by 29%.                                                                 

So, should fast food chains be handing out Lipitor with the burgers? Should there be an item on McDonald's menu called a “McStatin”?  

Statins are extremely useful. Lipitor is the world's top selling branded drug, with almost $13 billion per year in sales. The widely publicized 2008 JUPITER trial would seem to confirm this widespread use. This study gave a lot of credence to what we doctors call “primary prevention,” a justification for giving statin drugs to patients before they develop heart disease.                                                  

So why not hand out a statin with every double cheeseburger? Well for one thing, these meds are mostly effective when they are taken on a regular basis, not episodically. Your best treatment for high cholesterol is to improve your diet and to exercise regularly, not to take more visits to a fast food joint and pop a pill while you are there.   

Marc Siegel, MD, is an internist and professor of medicine at New York University and the author of False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear
You must be a registered member of MMM to post a comment.

Next Article in Features

Email Newsletters

What does going "beyond the pill" actually mean? At MM&M's recent inaugural spring conference, audience members heard from real-world companies that are managing the organizational, technological, and promotional challenges inherent in this transition, such as partnering with health neophytes, harnessing technologies that allow deeper engagement with patients, and adopting a new commercial mindset to serve, not sell. Download here.

A wave of more effective anti-cancer drugs has set the oncology world on fire with enthusiasm. While many hail this as a new era, an equally vocal faction questions the money spent for the value gained. This medical and commercial trend report for marketers of anti-cancer modalities touches on many of the latest shifts that have expedited product launches and otherwise impacted promotion and reimbursement of these drugs. Click here.