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Monday, August 26, 2013

Statins Reduce Existing Plaque In Arteries?

The Pharmaceutical Companies (Merck and Schering-Plough) claim that Zetia and Vytorin have been shown to Unclog your arteries and reduce inflammation.

I have visited several websites that indicate this is simply NOT TRUE. Let's take a LOOK:


By David Blyweiss, M.D.

There’s a lot of hype about statin drugs these days. The most recent is about their supposed ability to unclog your arteries and prevent heart attacks. And the two biggest proponents of this “benefit” are the pharmaceutical giants who make the prescription drugs Zetia and Vytorin. According to Merck and Schering-Plough, these two cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce both plaque and inflammation in the arteries. The problem is, it just isn’t true!

It turns out that these widely prescribed and expensive cholesterol drugs don’t do a darned thing to reduce the amount of plaque in your arteries. There’s also no concrete evidence that these and other cholesterol-lowering drugs prevent heart attacks, stroke and other cardiovascular problems. If that wasn’t enough, these cholesterol-lowering drugs come with a host of side effects, from muscle pain and weakness to memory loss to a potentially deadly condition called rhabdomyolysis that causes kidney failure. And the risk of side effects simply goes up when you take Zetia and Vytorin. Another study published last year showed a potential increase in cancer among patients taking these drugs compared with those taking only statins.

But here’s what I find so ironic. According to a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, niacin—a well-known and inexpensive B vitamin—can help unclog arteries in people already taking a statin drug like Lipitor. Better yet, combined with a heart healthy diet and exercise, niacin can significantly boost your HDL cholesterol levels, even if you aren’t taking a statin drug.

The study, which was conducted at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, followed about 200 patients who were already taking statins. Some were also given Niaspan, a modified form of niacin. The rest took Zetia. Researchers took images of the carotid artery—the artery leading to the brain—to measure the thickness of the artery walls over 14 months.

The patients who took Niaspan had less plaque in their arteries and also had higher levels of high-density lipoprotein or HDL. Known as “good” cholesterol, HDL removes cholesterol from the arteries and carries it back to the liver, where it is then eliminated from the body. But the patients who took Zetia had more plaque in their arteries, even though they had lower LDL levels. They also had more heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular problems than the patients taking niacin.
Vytorin and Zetia are among the most popular drugs that doctors prescribe. Last year, physicians in the U.S. wrote a total of more than 29 million prescriptions for them, and worldwide sales totaled $4.56 billion. So it isn’t surprising that top Merck executives are vigorously defending their drugs and have dismissed the new research as limited. But this isn’t the first study that shows that these drugs are worthless, and even potentially harmful.

Because of these new studies, many doctors are taking another look at niacin as a way to reduce arterial plaque and improve the ratio of good to bad cholesterol. In one landmark study of 136 people with high cholesterol, researchers randomly assigned the participants to receive either niacin or lovastatin. While both groups saw benefits, the statin was slightly more effective at lowering LDL cholesterol. But, when it came to HDL, those in the niacin group experienced a 33 percent increase compared to just seven percent for the statin group.

But as good as it is for tackling cholesterol itself, niacin is even better at lowering lipoprotein(a). Lp(a) are protein compounds that carry fats like cholesterol in the blood. While Lp(a) is a lot like LDL cholesterol, it plays an even greater role in creating the plaque that can narrow your arteries. And those with a family history of heart disease are at particularly risk for high levels of Lp(a). But one clinical trial found that niacin reduced Lp(a) levels by an impressive 35 percent. And other studies have shown that this nutrient can lower Lp(a) levels even more—up to 38 percent.

Because of these benefits, I strongly recommend niacin to my patients at risk of heart attack or stroke, as well as those who need to improve their cholesterol profile. But be aware that niacin comes in several forms—immediate release, slow-release, extended-release and non-flushing varieties. While most people prefer a non-flushing niacin supplement (the kind that prevents your skin from temporarily turning warm and red), it isn’t the most effective. Slow and extended-release supplements also carry other concerns—mainly liver toxicity. But immediate release niacin is both safe and effective when taken before bedtime. To reduce flushing, start with one dose of 250 mg. and increase the dose gradually to give your body a chance to adapt. You can also try taking it with a dose of stinging nettle—500 to 700 mg. should do the trick.

While niacin can be a safe way to reduce dangerous Lp(a) levels, it’s best to work with your doctor or naturopath to establish the correct dosage. It’s also good to have your doctor periodically check your liver function since high doses of any type of niacin can impact your liver.


Gómez-Garre D. Ezetimibe reduces plaque inflammation in a rabbit model of atherosclerosis and inhibits monocyte migration in addition to its lipid-lowering effect. British Journal of Pharmacology. 2009;156: 1218-1227.

Pan J. Niacin treatment of the atherogenic lipid profile and Lp(a) in diabetes. Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism. 2002;4:255-61.

Taylor AJ. Extended-Release Niacin or Ezetimibe and Carotid Intima-Media Thickness. New England Journal of Medicine. 2009;361:2113.

HERE is another look:


A Nutrient That Dissolves Arterial Plaque

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The nutritional product policosanol not only dramatically slows down the progression of arterial narrowing, but actually reverses plaque. And it is safer, cheaper, and has additional biochemical benefits that the statins do not.
Policosanol makes blood less likely to abnormally form clots by lowering fibrinogen (decreases platelet aggregation), something that statins do not do.
In one study, 10 mg twice a day of policosanol worked better than 100 mg of aspirin. In another study it lowered the cholesterol as well as the prescription statin drugs do.
Policosanol also surpassed the statin drugs in effectiveness by lowering the LDL; bad cholesterol) better than the statin drugs did, while in addition it raised the (good cholesterol) HDL 31%. The statin drugs don't touch HDL! Remember, having a high HDL is so protective that there are many people who have had serious heart problems who never had high cholesterol, but only had a low HDL.
Most importantly policosanol can actually dissolve away existing arterial plaque. In one study of policosanol given twice a day, not only did they stop getting worse and adding to their plaque, but there was regression of ischemia or melting away of plaque.

TO BE FAIR, THERE ARE ALSO SITES THAT INDICATE THERE IS EVIDENCE THAT STATINS can and do reduce existing plaque in arteries. Here is a look at that information:


Drugs That Dissolve Artery Plaque

Photo Credit stethoscope & drugs image by Olaru Radian-Alexandru from

Plaque is a substance made up of fat, cholesterol and calcium that builds up in the coronary arteries that supply the heart with oxygen-rich blood, according to the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute. A buildup of plaque increases risk of atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by narrow arteries, blood clots and restricted blood flow that could lead to a heart attack and death. Some drugs can dissolve arterial plaque and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.


Lipitor is a prescription drug in a class of medicines called statins. Atorvastatin is the active pharmaceutical ingredient in Lipitor. The product label says Lipitor is indicated as an adjunct therapy to diet to reduce elevated total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, chest pain and stroke in patients with multiple risk factors.

Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2004 and in the American Journal of Medicine in 2005 discovered that intensive lipid-lowering treatment with 80mg per day of atorvastatin in patients with coronary heart disease reduces arterial plaque, also called atheroma, and progression of coronary atherosclerosis by 0.4 percent. Intravascular ultrasonography was used to provide a three-dimensional view of the size and distribution of plaque inside the coronary artery. Moreover, baseline low-density lipoprotein cholesterol level was reduced from 150mg per dL to 79mg per dL. The results demonstrate that Lipitor can dissolve plaque and reduce risk factors associated with coronary artery disease.

Crestor is a prescription drug that contains rosuvastatin. According to the product label, Crestor is indicated for patients with high blood cholesterol and fats and to slow down progression of atherosclerosis. Research published in the Journal of Southern Medical University in 2010 demonstrated that rosuvastatin significantly reduces the size of arteriosclerotic plaques.

Beta blockers, also called beta-adrenergic blocking agents, are prescription drugs in a class of medicines used to treat high blood pressure, says Beta blockers such as sectral, nebivolol, propranolol and carvedilol, reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow in the arteries and can slow progression and induce regression of coronary artery disease by blocking the effects of epinephrine, a hormone also called adrenaline. Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2007 demonstrates that beta-blockers can slow progression of coronary atherosclerosis. The research discovered that plaque volume significantly decreases in patients who receive beta blockers.

Read more:

IN CLOSING OUT THIS BLOG POST, I do NOT pretend to have all the answers. As mentioned numerous times on my posts, I am not a doctor and I have NO formal medical training. I am just a guy with type 2 diabetes who is interested in being as healthy as I can possibly be. I try my best to eat right, avoid hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and high fructose corn syrup. I am very active physically for my age group.

I started this blog and continue to maintain it to try and present both sides of the story from the pharmaceutical industry and the medical community to the Naturopath and Homeopathic approach to health. I suspect sometimes the TRUTH is somewhere in between, however in MY OPINION, the balance beam weighs heavily on the side of natural supplements, herbs, and life style.


MATTHEW 8:16,17:16 
When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Is the Prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.”

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