The High Cost and Dubious Benefit of Cholesterol DrugsHelen Saul Case December 4, 2015
U.S. Doctors Discuss the High Cost of Drugs – and a Low Cost Alternative
(Courtesy Orthomolecular Medicine News Service; November 16, 2015)
It would be novel indeed to see a news media report titled ‘Life-Saving Vitamins’. That’s a headline about vitamins that would be true for once.
Instead, I see folks on TV speaking about those drugs they so desperately “need” while they plead with drug companies to just make them more affordable. “It’s tough when it comes to medical stuff costing so much because you can’t say no to medication”, says one patient who seeks an expensive drug to help lower his high cholesterol.
Take comfort, American consumer. NBC is on it. On Wednesday, November 4, 2015, they presented a news bit ominously entitled ‘Your Money or Your Life’. NBC asked Leonard Schleifer, MD, CEO of Regeneron: “Why do the same medications cost so much more here than in other countries?”
After all, NBC pointed out that drugs cost twice as much in the U.S. as they do in Canada, the U.K., or Australia. And they noted that Regeneron’s new drug, Praluent, is particularly costly.
Dr. Schleifer justified the price tag on his company’s expensive new drug because of the high cost of the product’s development. “Do we want cheap drugs now, and no drugs in the future?” he asks. “Or more expensive drugs now, and a constant stream of drugs?”
This pharmaceutical CEO would have us enjoy an endless stream of expensive drugs. Of course he would. For many people who take cholesterol-lowering drugs every day, a constant supply is exactly what they end up paying for.
The Drug Marketing Machine
The pharmaceutical industry is “primarily a marketing machine to sell drugs of dubious benefit,” says Marcia Angell, MD, a senior lecturer at Harvard Medical School and former editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. In her bestselling book, The Truth About the Drug Companies, she says that the supposedly high cost of research and development has very little to do with how high they price their products. Basically, drug companies charge what they think they can get. And while you will hear it claimed otherwise, far more is spent on marketing than on research and development. She even points out that “news” about drugs is just another way to promote drugs. “Contrary to the industry’s public relations,” says Dr. Angell, “you don’t get what you pay for.”
“New drug” does not automatically mean “improved,” “better,” or “safe.” It means that at least in a couple of trials, it beat a placebo. “Clearly drug companies are more concerned with profits than with patients,” says Andrew W. Saul, PhD.
Praluent costs US$40 a day. That’s $14,600 a year. NBC reported that this is significantly more costly than it should be. They referred to a watchdog study that suggested a more reasonable price would be $2,200 to $7,700 a year, or just $6 to $21 a day.
Believe it or not, there is an even cheaper, more effective option to reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, and we’ve known about it for over 60 years.
Niacin is Better Than Any Cholesterol Drug
Back in the 1950s, William Parsons, MD, and colleagues reported that niacin lowers bad cholesterol, increases good cholesterol, and lowers triglycerides, among other benefits such as living longer.
Abram Hoffer, MD, who pioneered the use of niacin to cure schizophrenia, says Dr. Parsons provided the evidence that niacin is the “only practical, effective, safe, and cost effective method for restoring lipid levels to normal.”
“Niacin should probably be the first-line medication for people who want to lower their cholesterol levels,” say Drs. Hilary Roberts and Steve Hickey, authors of The Vitamin Cure for Heart Disease. Additionally, the health advantages of niacin extend well beyond its ability to reduce cholesterol. “Niacin inhibits inflammation and protects the delicate linings of the arteries,” say Dr. Roberts and Dr. Hickey, and “helps maintain the arterial wall and prevents atherosclerosis.”
The dose is the key. “[T]he data on patients with problem cholesterol/LDL levels still support 3,000-5,000 milligrams of immediate-release niacin as the best clinically-proven approach to maintaining a healthy lipid profile,” says research professor and niacin expert, W. Todd Penberthy, PhD.
And, despite what you may have heard, niacin is “far safer than the safest drug.”
And niacin is cheaper, too.
The cost of a bottle of regular, flush niacin comes in under eight bucks. Taking six to ten 500 mg niacin tablets per day ($0.03 a tablet) would cost $0.19 to $0.30. The yearly investment to take the best cholesterol-lowering substance out there would be $70 to $110. That’s 20 to 100 times cheaper than statins. That’s up to 200 times cheaper than Praluent. And niacin is safer than all of them.
“We’ve all been carefully taught that drugs cure illness, not vitamins,” says Dr. Saul. “The system is remarkably well-entrenched.” Instead of being hailed as the safe, effective, affordable, life-saving vitamin it is, niacin is bashed in the media, and dangerous drugs are practically revered. Is the only fault we can find with them is that they cost too much?
We can do better. We can say no to medication. We can do something about high cholesterol, and it doesn’t have to cost a pile. We don’t have to buy into, or believe, what we see on TV.
1) NBC News. ‘Regeneron CEO Explains the High Cost of Cholesterol Drug Praluent’: http://www.nbcnews.com/video/regeneron-ceo-explains-the-high-cost-of-cholesterol-drug-praluent-559474243915
3) Angell, M. The Truth About the Drug Companies. New York: Random House, Inc. 2004.
4) Review at: http://orthomolecular.org/library/jom/2005/pdf/2005-v20n02-p120.pdf
5) Saul, A. W. ‘Rigged Trials: Drug Studies Favor The Manufacturer’, Orthomolecular Medicine News Service (Nov 5, 2008): http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v04n20.shtml
6) ‘New Cholesterol-Lowering Drug Praluent Far More Expensive Than Statins’: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/praluent-cholesterol-lowering-drug-high-cost-statin-alternative
7) Hoffer. A. ‘Niacin, Coronary Disease and Longevity’: http://www.doctoryourself.com/hoffer_cardio.html
8) Parsons, W. B., Cholesterol Control Without Diet! Lilac Press. 2000.
9) Hoffer, A., A. W. Saul, and H. Foster. Niacin: The Real Story. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc. 2012
10) Roberts, H., and S. Hickey. The Vitamin Cure for Heart Disease. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc. 2011
11) Penberthy, W. T. ‘Laropiprant is the Bad One; Niacin is/was/will Always Be the Good One’, Orthomolecular Medicine News Service (July 25, 2014): http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v10n12.shtml
To Learn More
• Introduction of Niacin as the First Successful Treatment for Cholesterol Control, A Reminiscence by William B. Parsons, Jr., M.D., FACP: http://www.orthomolecular.org/library/jom/2000/articles/2000-v15n03-p121.shtml
• Niacin is the Safest and Most Effective Way to Control Cholesterol (But You’d Never Know it from the Media): http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v09n07.shtml
• Niacin Beats Statins: Supplements and Diet are Safer, More Effectiv: http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v09n25.shtml
• Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs For Eight-Year-Old Kids? American Academy of Pediatrics Urging “McMedicine”: http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v04n08.shtml
• Niacin (Vitamin B3) Lowers High Cholesterol Safely: http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v01n10.shtml
• No Deaths from Vitamins. Absolutely None. 31 Years of Supplement Safety Once Again Confirmed by America’s Largest Database: http://orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v11n01.shtml
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