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It’s Monday so I thought I’d get the bad news over while everyone’s feeling grumpy anyway. But because I’m a caring sharing kind of person, there’s also some good news to brighten your day.

Let’s get the bad news over. Yes folks, the Daily Express is spooking the herd again. Front page headline and subhead from last Wednesday’s edition.

Statins in new health alert

Daily pill can cause kidney damage.

In its usual scaremongering style the rag reports that statins, used to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood and possibly help prevent cardiovascular disease, can cause renal damage. Furthermore, this risk is highest during the first 120 days of treatment, and may continue for up to two years.

Let’s just have a think about this. Statins are metabolised and excreted pretty rapidly, so there is no accumulation in the body; they reach what’s called ‘steady state pharmacodynamics’ in about two to three days. Therefore if there are going to be side effects you’d expect them to be early onset, as the body reacts to this new molecule. If something is going to go wrong, it’s likely  (but not certain) to happen early, and this holds true with a lot of drugs. This is a real ‘No shit, Sherlock’ statement, isn’t it?  As for ‘…for the next two years,’ I’d like to see the figures here.

We then get a classic piece of fatuous Express reporting. There’s some guidance from ‘experts.’ It doesn’t specify who these experts are. Probably the boy in the post room’s dad is taking a statin, so the post room boy is an expert. Oh, I’m sorry. I read a bit more, and there’s the usual collection of unlikely sounding professorial names, but at least I now know the study was carried out in Montreal. I don’t know if the Canadians are as good at cardiovascular research as the Scandinavians, who are absolute genius level in this field, but at least it wasn’t a bunch of no hopers on the Dominican Republic or somewhere equally obscure.

Anyway, the ‘expert’ advice is that the dose given ‘should be as low as possible.’ Again, ‘No shit, Sherlock.’ Any responsible medical practitioner will give the lowest dose that is effective, for any drug at all. It’s called good clinical practice.

It’s hard to nail down any hard figures here. Apparently the risk of kidney damage is 38% higher in those patients receiving high doses than in those receiving low doses. Not exactly a revelation that there’s a higher risk with higher doses, is it? Unless you’re a homeopath increasing doses increase effect, and that’s likely to include side effects. I can’t find the raw data about the general level of kidney failure, just the percentage increase. A 38% increase in occurrence for something that occurs only 1 in 100,000 patients would be no big deal, would it? Oh no, here we go. It occurs in about 1 in 500. So a 38% increase means that it now occurs in 1.38 per 500 patients. Trivial. Who cares? Well, I guess you would if you were one of the 1.38. But 1.38 in 500 is only 0.28% of total patients. You’re probably more likely to be killed by a crocodile. Anyway, the renal damage is reversible with cessation of treatment. Really, I can’t see there’s much of a problem here. Especially when you’re looking at patients at risk of heart attacks and stroke. Now those are things to fret about.

What’s very odd is this. Not three weeks ago, the Express was saying that doctors should be urged to prescribe statins to everybody over the age of 50 years, even those with no history of cardiovascular disease, and in the absence of raised cholesterol levels. They were even advocating that statins should be made available over the pharmacy counter. On second thoughts, it’s not odd at all. This is the Express we’re talking about.

Now the good news. A friend of mine and I are fighting fire with fire. We’re playing a prank. I’m developing a spoof website about a new wonder aid to health. I’ll not spoil the joke, so I’m not going to tell you just yet what this wonder product is. I will say it’s 100% natural, the resources used are truly sustainable, and harvesting is as easy as pie. You can even make your own.

Naturally I can’t leave well alone, so I’m already at the stage of planning line extensions with other benefits that will accrue from them. I’m dressing the whole thing up in cod scientific terms. I reckon I could actually make some money out of this with some careful planning. And the whole idea is no less stupid that that of using snake skin on your toenails. See http://wp.me/p2C8Zz-pF if you missed that little gem back in March. I’ll have Hollywood stars beating a path to my door.