The health headlines over the last few days have been all about the debacle created by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology when these cardiologists touted their new guidelines on statin use. We were invited by an editor at The New York Times to put drug treatment into perspective.

You will find our essay, “Do Your Homework,” in the Room for Debate section. 

What is an ordinary person to do, if the experts can’t seem to make up their minds? First, exercise a prudent degree of skepticism. If you are uncertain of the medication, discuss other ways to treat the condition. Your doctor may not be aware that there even is a controversy. Patients were often out in front of their doctors when it came to the dangers of hormone replacement therapy, for example. That’s because women were worried about the possibility of breast cancer and HRT even as they were being reassured that estrogen and progestin would prevent heart attacks.

In our short essay for The New York Times we advocate that patients find out as much as they can about the medicines their doctors prescribe. This can be done online at sites like ours, or through ConsumerReports Best Buy Drugs or at DailyMed, where the official prescribing information for a majority of prescription drugs is published. The pharmacist is a valuable but underused information resource who may be able to give you a different perspective on the drugs you take, though pharmacists are usually careful not to contradict doctors directly.

If you experience unanticipated side effects from a medication, you can report them to the FDA at MedWatch. You may be able to find out if others have had similar problems by searching this site. Patient reports are how we discovered the problems with the generic antidepressant Budeprion XL 300 (bupropion). The reports of uncontrollable itch associated with Zyrtec (cetirizine) withdrawal is another example of patients helping each other. And this site has become a beacon for for a variety of statin side effect stories, including a possible relationship between statins and ALS.

If you are worried about drug interactions, visit

The one person who has the biggest stake in your reaction to a medication is you. And that’s why you will be the one who benefits most from becoming an e-patient: engaged, empowered and enlightened.  

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  1. SK

    I went to a cardiologist and without even checking my cholesterol levels she wanted to put me on statins. I refused and she was not happy with me. My levels are on the high side of normal, but they are in the acceptable range. I won’t be going back to that doctor…

  2. Sha

    Hubby had most excellent results from time release Niacin 500; many years. I did try; one after another, after another, with problems with all, even tiny doses of statins.
    Now am on low does niacin.
    One family member, had terrible reaction; became bed-bound for several weeks before she got statin out of system.

  3. Marie E

    Previously highly dubious regarding soap in the bed relieving night cramps, and after years as a sufferer, I decided trying this remedy and I am truly amazed. After several weeks of cramp free sleeping I’m now a complete convert.
    Magnesium used to do the trick but am unable to take that any more because of conflicting medication.

  4. M

    My comments are new studies are with flaws & even if we believe in science as I do but I am totally rejecting this science. I am not alone & let us face it AMA & ACC have lost credibility. Patients who have less education totally rely upon their physicians. Majority of physicians themselves are not aware of side effect profiles. Pharmacists are extremely busy with time constrains from their employers: Walgreen/CVS etc. fill prescription. Pharmacy techs have no clue. They will handed over printed sheet with bottle of your prescription and goodbye.

  5. DLH

    Press reports I’ve read regarding the recent heart and stroke (cardiovascular disease, or CV) prevention guidelines focus on the overestimation of CVD risk by the recommended calculator, potentially subjecting millions of people to unnecessary treatment. But another important change that has the same effect has not received as much attention: the experts have dramatically lowered the recommended threshold for treatment, which used to be 20% CVD risk over 10 years; now it is 7.5%. And the guidelines further suggest “considering” treatment at 5% (it used to be 10%).
    At 5% risk, around 200 people would need to be treated with a statin for 10 years to (maybe) prevent one death, around 100 people would need to be treated for 10 years to prevent one non-fatal stroke event and around 80 people would need to be treated for 10 years to prevent one non-fatal heart attack event. Some of these non-fatal events would be severe (I’m thinking about strokes here) but others would be mild (like transient ischemic attacks and angina) and treatable; all would (or should) lead to a recommendation for statin treatment.

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