Statin mono-failure

Evan's first heart scan score in November, 2006 yielded a high score for a 56-year old male: 542.

So he put up little fuss when his doctor prescribed simvastatin at a high dose.

Evan's LDL cholesterol before simvastatin: 158 mg/dl

Evan's LDL cholesterol on simvastatin: 72 mg/dl.

By conventional standards, Evan has had an excellent response. The rest of his lipid (cholesterol) panel was unrevealing: HDL 62 mg/dl, triglycerides 78 mg/dl. Evan doesn't smoke, has a normal blood pressure, and he is not diabetic. That should do it, right?

So his doctor thought. So Evan asked if another heart scan was in order. In December, 2007, after one year of simvastatin, his second heart scan score: 705--a 30% increase over one year.

Recall that, with no effort at prevention whatsoever, the natural progression of heart scan scores is a 30% per year increase. Did simvastatin do nothing?

This is quite typical of people who do nothing more than take a statin drug. While some people do slow plaque growth (we say "decelerate") modestly on a statin drug, Evan's experience is not unusual: plaque continues to grow despite high-dose statin drug and an apparently favorable cholesterol panel.

In fact, I can count the number of people who reduced their heart scan scores taking a statin drug alone on one finger.

Statins do not represent a cure for heart disease. They cannot be used as sole therapy to reduce risk for heart attack. In fact, given sufficient time, the majority of people who do nothing more than follow this standard line of treatment (along with the equally lame low-fat diet, etc.) will have done nothing more than postpone their heart attack. Elimination of risk? Nope.

This is among the reasons we developed the Track Your Plaque approach. While not foolproof, I know of no better approach to seize control over plaque growth.

Additional conversations on clinical studies which, as with Evan's experience, demonstrated how statin drugs fail to slow plaque growth can be found in previous Heart Scan Blog posts:

Don't be satisfied with "deceleration"

Study review: Yet another Lipitor study

Copyright 2008 William Davis, MD

Comments (6) -

  • BarbaraW

    2/1/2008 4:01:00 PM |

    Dr. Davis,
    Have you seen the recent statin drug articles?  

    There's the NY Times response section to Tara Parker-Pope's January 29th article "Great Drug, but Does It Prolong Life?"?  The comments (blog) area is called "Will Cholesterol Pills Save Your Life?" and the cross-section of responses is fascinating.  Here's the link:
    Will Cholesterol Pills Save Your Life?

    And the January 17th Business Week cover story "Do Cholesterol Drugs Do Any Good?"

    It's disturbing to read comments from the people who have had such dreadful problems with statin drugs, but it's good on many levels to see the topic of statin use getting aired in major publications.

  • Dr. Davis

    2/1/2008 4:05:00 PM |

    Hi, Barbara--

    Waht bothers me is that, with the re-examination of LDL and statin drugs, I believe the media has also gotten it wrong.

    The basic problem--beyond bald profiteering by drug companies--is that LDL is a calculated, you might say "fabricated", number that often bears little resemblance to reality. Yet the $27 billion (annual revenues) statin industry is built on treatment of this number.

  • Anonymous

    2/1/2008 7:05:00 PM |

    I think I remember reading in Malcolm Kendrick's work that post mortem studies showed that people on statins  had as much if not more plaque than non-statin users, and that the plaques were smaller in number, but bigger in size. Statins causing plaque stabilisation (less likely to rupture) but not a reduction in plaque quantity??


  • Anonymous

    2/1/2008 10:34:00 PM |

    Very interesting, as you know Dr. Agaston believes there is no such thing as reversal and says in his South Beach Heart book that if you get your plaque down to a less than 10% INCREASE per year you have done everything you can to stop your risk of heart attack. he considers that the goal !!!!

  • Dr. Davis

    2/2/2008 6:31:00 AM |

    Dr. Agatston has made a major contribution to the national discussion on diet. But I'm afraid that he is flat wrong on the issue of whether heart scan scores can be stopped or reduced. I've seen substantial drops of heart scan scores in many people.

  • Lily

    2/5/2009 7:57:00 PM |

    So, if your doctor says you need to take a statin and you don't have insurance, what do you do?  I found a very good prescription discount card at  I pay only $9 for my Simvastatin.  That's a great discount.  They have discounts on brands too, but their generic prices are great!