Burgers, Fries, Statins? Should Fast Food Chains Serve up Cholestorol Drugs?

close-up portrait of young beautiful woman is eating big mac isolated on white Pavel Sazonov

(Pavel Sazonov photo)

(CBS) How about a side of Crestor with your cheeseburger?

Sounds far-fetched, but scientists in England say it might make sense for fast food joints to dispense cholesterol-lowering statin drugs to their customers.

In a paper published in the current issue of the American Journal of Cardiology, Dr. Darrel Francis and colleagues calculate that the reduction in cardiovascular risk offered by a statin is enough to offset the increased heart attack risk that comes from from eating a cheeseburger and a milkshake.

"Statins don't cut out all of the unhealthy effects of burgers and fries," Dr. Francis, a researcher at the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, said in a written statement. "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."

Dr. Franz Messerli, who directs the high blood pressure program at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City, isn't so sure about the plan. He told Reuters Health that giving out statins might "give Quarter Pounder consumers a false sense of security."

And while statins are broadly successful at lowering cholesterol levels, especially the bad kind, studies have not consistently proven that the drugs actually prevent heart attacks unless you have already had one.

Statins, a family of cholesterol-lowering medications including Crestor and Lipitor, are currently available only by prescription. But given their relative safety, Dr. Francis said it might make sense for restaurants to be able to give them out to all comers.

"It'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," he said.

Dr. Francis is clearly ahead of his colleagues in believing that fast food restaurants should be pushing statins instead of mayo.

Would it make sense for other doctors to catch up?

Tell us what you think.

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