Lipitor — a.k.a. atorvastatin — is a drug prescribed to reduce what is commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol.”
Lipitor sales bring in a cool $12+ billion in profits for the drug’s manufacturer, Pfizer, ever year. It is the top selling medicine in the entire world. Other statin drugs in the same class include Lescol, Mevacor, Pravachol, Crestor and Zocor.
The FDA approved atorvastatin in December 1996 to be prescribed in daily tablets of 10 milligrams to 80 milligrams. The drug helps to stop the liver from manufacturing a kind of lipoprotein known as low-density lipoprotein or LDL. Most common literature on LDL misclassifies the substance as “cholesterol.” LDLs are actually protein transport vehicles for cholesterol — this distinction turns out to be very important.
The conventional medical thinking is that LDL is “bad cholesterol” that “block arteries” and causes heart disease. That is what most doctors think, and that is what most patients believe. But as we are about to see, this entire line of thinking about the etiology of clogged arteries and heart disease is incredibly misinformed and biologically inaccurate.
Just to clarify, here is why everyone thinks statins are so powerful and useful in preventing heart disease and clogged arteries:
The assumption is that high levels of LDL cholesterol cause cholesterol to collect in the walls of arteries and damage the vascular system. Over time, the accumulation of the cholesterol does terrible damage and leads to heart disease, stroke and other awful ailments. holesterol is seen as an evil substance, gumming up arterial walls like a sludge. Cholesterol is seen as something that should be lowered as much as possible to maximize heart health. By this line of thinking, a drug, like Lipitor, that lowers cholesterol levels, should protect against heart disease and save lives.
There are many, many holes with this “too much cholesterol causes heart disease” theory.
For starters, cholesterol is a fundamental building block of our cells, and it is an essential ingredient for life. Dr. Peter Attia offers the following insight in his highly instructive and incredibly detailed “deep dive” six-part blog series, “The Straight Dope on Cholesterol” (http://eatingacademy.com/nutrition/the-straight-dope-on-cholesterol-part-i):
“We ingest (i.e. take in) cholesterol in many of the foods we eat and the body produces (“synthesizes”) cholesterol de novo from various precursors. About 25% of our daily “intake” of cholesterol – roughly 300 to 500 milligrams – comes from what we eat (called exogenous cholesterol), and the remaining 75% of our “intake” of cholesterol – roughly 800 to 1,200 milligrams – is made by our body (called endogenous production). To put these amounts in context, consider that the total body stores of cholesterol are about 30 to 40 grams (i.e. 30,000 to 40,000 milligrams) and most of this resides within our cell membranes. Every cell in the body can produce cholesterol and thus very few cells actually require a delivery of cholesterol. Cholesterol is required by all cell membranes and to produce steroid hormones and bile acids.”
But what about the widely held assumption that cholesterol is “bad”? Where did that idea originate, and is there any truth to it? Find out in the next post. For now, if you need help with a Lipitor case, get in touch with the Davis & Crump team now at 800-277-0300.