HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Friday, August 13, 2010

Should Fast Food Providers Serve Statins With High Fat Meals?

According to a paper published in the American Journal of Cardiology, for the same cost as the packet of catsup you get with your burger, a statin could be provided to you that would offset the increase in heart attack risk from eating a cheeseburger and a milkshake.  In a statement, the senior author of the paper, Dr Darrel Francis from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London explained:

Statins don't cut out all of the unhealthy effects of burgers and fries. It's better to avoid fatty food altogether. But we've worked out that in terms of your likelihood of having a heart attack, taking a statin can reduce your risk to more or less the same degree as a fast food meal increases it.

Statins reduce the amount of unhealthy "LDL" cholesterol in the blood. A wealth of trial data has proven them to be highly effective at lowering a person's heart attack risk. One statin, simvastatin, is already available in low doses (10mg) over the counter at pharmacies without a prescription in the UK. There is no statin available over the counter in the U.S.

Dr. Francis added that  

[i]t’s ironic that people are free to take as many unhealthy condiments in fast food outlets as they like, but statins, which are beneficial to heart health, have to be prescribed. 

It makes sense to make risk-reducing supplements available just as easily as the unhealthy condiments that are provided free of charge. It would cost less than 5 pence per customer - not much different to a sachet of ketchup. When people engage in risky behaviors like driving or smoking, they’re encouraged to take measures that minimize their risk, like wearing a seatbelt or choosing cigarettes with filters. Taking a statin is a rational way of lowering some of the risks of eating a fatty meal.'

Hat tip to Pharmalot for pointing out that five pence is worth pennies.

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