Popular “Wonder Drugs” May Cause Cancer


The New York Times hailed them as “wonder drugs.” Doctors use them as the first line of defense against heart attack, stroke, inflammation and whatever else they can make sound dreadful and scary. Despite the spin, cholesterol lowering drugs (fibrates and statins) are proving to be not so wonderful. As outlined in the book, Over-The-Counter Natural Cures, by Shane Ellison, MS continuing research showed how these blockbusters failed to prevent heart attack and stroke to any clinical significance. But that’s not the worst part. There’s seems to be a “little” problem with cancer.

    “My husband died last August 2005 of advanced liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma). He tested negative for hepatitis and cirrhosis as the common causes of liver cancer. Nothing ever was said about the lovastatin (mevacor) that he was on since 2003 when he had a mild heart attack. A friend (non-M.D.)mentioned the statin probably caused the cancer.”


In their study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Thomas B. Newman, M.D., MPH, and co-workers show that all cholesterol-lowering drugs, both the early drugs known as fibrates (clofibrate, gemfibrozil) and the newer drugs known as statins (Lipitor, Pravachol, Zocor), cause cancer in rodents at the equivalent doses used by man.

Interestingly, these facts are not reflected in the highly coveted Physicians Desk Reference (PDR) or by the pharmaceutically-compliant media. For instance, the PDR shows that cancer is a side effect for fibric acid derivates and statins only when as much as ten times the recommended human dose is used.

Dr. Gloria Troendle, deputy director for the Division of Metabolism and Endocrine Drug Products for the FDA, noted that the cholesterol-lowering drug gemfibrozil belonged to a class of drugs that has repeatedly been shown to increase death rates among users. Moreover, Dr. Troendle stated that she does not believe the FDA has ever approved a drug for long-term use that was as cancer causing at human doses as gemfibrozil.

Others shared these same concerns about gemfibrozil. In comments to the FDA, Elizabeth Barbehenn, Ph.D., concluded: “fibrates must be considered as potential human carcinogens and their carcinogenic potential should be part of the risk benefit equation for evaluating gemfibrozil.”


Ignoring these facts and despite having a majority vote among their advisory committee against approval, the pharmaceutically- campaigned FDA-approved these drugs anyway! Specifically, when asked to vote whether or not the cholesterol-lowering drug gemfibrozil should be approved for prevention of heart disease, only 3 out of 9 voted in favor of approval. Unfortunately, these votes are only “advisory” and – against the better judgment of the committee – the FDA decided to approve gemfibrozil for human consumption.

Of course, the extrapolation of evidence of cancer from rodent to human is very uncertain. And this is the argument of those who favor using cholesterol-lowering drugs. More likely, such an extrapolation would only hold true if human studies also showed an increase in cancer rates. In fact, that is what scientists are seeing.

Sheperd and colleagues for PROSPER noted in the Lancet that “…new cancer diagnoses were more frequent on pravastatin [Pravachol] than on placebo [those not taking the drug].” Similar findings were made in the CARE (Cholesterol And Recurrent Events) trial. Evidence from the trial showed a significant increase (a 1500% relative risk increase) in breast cancer among women taking Pravachol (a cholesterol-lowering drug made by Bristol-Myer Squib).

One mechanism by which cholesterol-lowering drugs may cause cancer has been identified. Published in Nature Medicine, Dr. Michael Simons of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston shows that statin drugs mimic a substance known as vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGF). The biochemical VEGF promotes the growth of new blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis. While angiogenesis may help the growth of arteries, the benefit is quickly negated by the potential for growth of cancer.


The British Journal of Cancer reports that VEGF plays an important role in the spread of colorectal cancer. Further, for those who already have tumors, VEGF and compounds that mimic VEGF significantly diminish that person’s survival time.

The fact that cholesterol-lowering drugs can potentially cause cancer at doses commonly used by humans will never be accepted as mainstream knowledge. Drug company-funded studies for cholesterol-lowering drugs are conveniently short in nature, typically five years or less. It takes decades for cancer to develop. Actually, even heavy smoking will not cause lung cancer within five years. Yet it is a well-known fact that smoking leads to lung cancer. Therefore, as long as statin drug trials last only five years, the fact that these “wonder drugs” aren’t wonder drugs will continue to fly below the radar.

By now, most people are starting to see the big picture – wonder drugs aren’t that wonderful. Stop fearing your cholesterol levels and starting taking charge of your own health.


By: Shane Ellison, MS