There is no evidence that prescribing cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins to patients at risk of heart disease reduces their chances of premature death. An analysis published last month questions research that led the FDA to allow the statin drug Crestor or Pfizer's Lipitor wider use for prevention of heart disease in those who do not already have it. The Food and Drug Administration increased Crestor's market to millions more people in February, 2010 partly because of a study reported in 2008 by Crestor's maker. As a result, more doctors put healthy people on statin drugs, often inappropriately. The earlier Crestor study funded by AstraZeneca was controversial: Crestor reduced the risk of certain heart problems in half for the middle-aged and older men and women in the study, who had normal levels of LDL, or "bad" cholesterol (below 130). Critics suggested the dramatic results might be exaggerated because the experiment was stopped after two years instead of the planned five. They questioned why the authors didn't report the rates of death from heart attack and stroke, which when teased out of the data turned out to be unaffected by Crestor. In a meta-analysis - a study which reviews all previous published scientific evidence on a specific area - Professor Kausik Ray from the University of Cambridge found little evidence that statins saved lives in the short term in groups without heart disease. Dr. Rita Redberg, a cardiologist at University of California San Francisco, and editor of Archives of Internal Medicine says, "Why take a medicine that hasn't been shown to make you feel better or live longer? Yet that's what millions of Americans are doing." People taking these drugs have higher risks of liver dysfunction, kidney failure, muscle weakness and cataracts. Archives of Internal Medicine, June 28, 2010.

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