Wonder drugs

It’s been an up and down month for statins, a class of widely touted “wonder drugs” that are already a rage based on their ability to lower cholesterol and thus reduce the risk of heart disease. Preliminary studies suggest that they may be effective against an array of cancers as well, though that is far from proved. The hitch is lingering safety concerns, highlighted by a recent study showing that the most powerful drug in the class had a much higher rate of serious adverse reports than did its competitors.

The statins are undeniably good at lowering cholesterol. Because inflammation appears to be at the root of many diseases, The Harvard Health Letter recently suggested that statins may eventually be used to treat conditions like Alzh-eimer’s, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. But rigorous controlled trials are clearly needed.

One issue to watch is safety. Statins, in rare cases, can cause life-threatening kidney damage, liver inflammation and fatal muscle breakdown. This week a new study found that Crestor, the newest and strongest statin, had a much higher rate of adverse injury reports than did three rival statins. Heart experts insist that statins are quite safe, but consumers will need to keep their guard up to make sure that unbridled enthusiasm for these drugs does not obscure any problems. — The New York Times