Statin island welcomes you

I was going to entitle this column, 'Buddha, Ya Fat B******,' because I have little tolerance for religious sensitivities. Different mythologies, same old story. We are pinned between American fundamentalists peddling 'intelligent design' and Islamic fundamentalists demanding universal sharia law.

It's a pity everyone isn't like the Irish. We have moved on from superstition and now realise that the secret of life is to buy property, sell at a profit, buy a bigger property and spend the proceeds on women and drink.

We are a simple people.

'Intelligent design', I find particularly annoying. I was reading an excellent book recently, This Thing of Darkness, about Darwin's voyage to South America, where he found the material for his Theory of Evolution.

Ah, the sweet perfume of scientific progress. Darwin provides the theory, and then along come Mendel and Crick and Watson to provide the mechanism.

The book includes a map of Tierra del Fuego, down at the southern end of South America. And then I had a nasty shock. At the tip of Tierra del Fuego, there it was: Statin island. I shook myself, had another look.

I knew there was a Staten Island in New York, but now there's another.

Is that a bad omen or what?

Most wonder drugs run a consistent path. The newspapers hail them, the NHS gets tortured to prescribe them for everyone, then they are found to actually be not all that good. They fall out of fashion, occasionally making a small comeback in a very specific niche.

I remember when statins first appeared as wonder drugs. Everyone with high cholesterol was getting stuck on them, until we realised the side-effects and the importance of other risk factors.

But statins have broken the mould; they are back, bigger than ever, and getting even bigger. They have found fertile ground in the pastures of diabetes and CHD, and now a whisper tells me that the green fields of hypertension are next in line. So I am not surprised that things have got so bad they now have their very own island, where the natives all have unfurred arteries and live forever, before dying of something else.

And they don't mind the regular liver function tests either.

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