The most popular class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, known as the statins, have been found to suppress certain immune system cells known as helper T-cells, according to new research from Switzerland.
In an interesting twist on the study's findings of this adverse effect, however, it is being hailed as a benefit.
The researchers and subsequent media reports have focused on the fact that the drugs may be useful for treating transplant patients. However, how this immune suppression could affect the vast majority of patients taking the drugs is not discussed.
"This unexpected effect provides a scientific rationale for using statins as immunosuppressors, not only in organ transplantation, but in numerous other pathologies as well," the researchers conclude.
Researchers found that in laboratory-grown cells, the statin drugs suppressed the activation of helper T-cells. T cells, of which there are 4 types, are a group of lymphocytes produced in the thymus gland. The four types are:
Helper T cells, the type suppressed by the statin drugs, act by recognizing foreign pathogens and then activating the production of the proper T cells and B cells in response.
The statin drugs used in the study included the following:
The concentrations of the drugs were very similar to doses used in patients, Dr. Wulf Palinski of the University of California, San Diego, explained in an editorial accompanying the study.
In comments to Reuters Health, Dr. Palinski notes that "how the statins worked was not well-established. The current study suggests a biological mechanism for how these drugs work."
Nature Medicine, December, 2000; 6: 1311-1312, 1399-1402
DR. MERCOLA'S COMMENT: This is an amazing example of positive "spin" put on a very negative result. People with high cholesterol certainly don't need their immune systems suppressed. But this newly discovered effect should not surprise anyone who reads this newsletter.
If you rely on drugs to treat your health problems, you must accept the fact that many, if not most, of the physiological effects of the medication are unknown. This goes for nearly ALL drugs.
If suppressing the helper T cells is considered such great benefit then there is a disease going around that does this quite well - AIDS.
If someone has elevated cholesterol, by far the best results are obtained by following the proper diet. It will yield better results than the drugs and is far safer and cheaper as well.
It would also be enlightening for most readers to consider the fact that these drugs have been widely used, even though by Dr. Palinski's own admission how they work was note understood. Therefore, if the mechanism of action of the drug is not understood, how can the manufacturer or the FDA claim that it is safe?