nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Serving A Cholesterol Pill With Your Burger

Researchers in Britain suggest that a low-dose statin be offered to people who buy high-fat fast foods.

The idea is to have little packets of cholesterol-lowering drugs (called "statins") available along with the salt and ketchup packets. (See the WSJ Health blog, Aug 13)

There are several flaws to this thinking.  First, statins work over a period of many weeks.  They are not drugs that act immediately.  To counteract a single fast-food purchase, you would have to be on the drug for a couple of months--daily--ahead of time.

Second, statins act variably on different types of cholesterol and fats in our bloodstream.  While one drug may lower your LDL-C (the bad cholesterol), it may have no effect on the high triglycerides you get from eating that Double Whopper or Pan-style pizza...after you've been on the drug for a while, of course.

Third, in the UK people can buy low-dose statins without a prescription.  But it's not clear that taking a low dose does very much to reduce risk.  The therapeutic dose for an individual with a lipid problem has to be individualized through monitoring and dose a physician or other trained medic.

Fourth, statins have side effects and adverse reactions.  Not everybody can take them.  To offer them in a restaurant without follow-up could lead to harmful consequences.

And Lastly, I've got a problem with treating behavioral health problems with drugs.  If we had a pill that could remove the cancer-causing effect from cigarettes, would we then say it's healthy to smoke?  What about the emphysema and bronchitis?

In my opinion, treating poor eating habits with drugs deals with unhealthy behavior by sweeping it under the rug.  It would only encourage people to buy two Double Whoppers...double the flavor, double the hazard.  But wait, then we could take TWO pills.

This is bad medical practice.

Doc D

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