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How too much medicine can kill you

During a recent clinic consultation, I saw Mary, in her early 60s, with type 2 diabetes. She was concerned that the muscle pains in her legs may have been a result of the cholesterol-lowering statin drug she was taking. “But I’m scared of stopping it.” She explained how a specialist nurse had told her a clot could break off from her aorta, travel to her brain and cause a massive stroke.

I assured her that even in those with established heart disease, who stand to gain most from taking the drug, the risk of death from stopping the medication for two weeks to see if the side-effects would go was close to 1 in 10,000.

Unfortunately, such misinformation and fear-mongering is common. One of the root causes is undoubtedly driven by the commercial interests of the pharmaceutical industry.

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