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Burger, Fries and Heart Pills? Docs Want McDonald's to Offer Statins on the Side

A new study that recommends McDonald's (MCD) and other burger joints include free cholesterol-lowering pills with their Quarter Pounders is yet another step in Big Pharma's push to persuade healthy people to take statin medicines as a preventative health measure. The question is, will Big Food take up the challenge and help their campaign? The study, in the American Journal of Cardiology, is entirely serious:
The risk reduction associated with the daily consumption of most statins, with the exception of pravastatin, is more powerful than the risk increase caused by the daily extra fat intake associated with a 7-oz hamburger (Quarter Pounder®) with cheese and a small milkshake. In conclusion, statin therapy can neutralize the cardiovascular risk caused by harmful diet choices.
... Fast food outlets already offer free condiments to supplement meals. A free statin-containing accompaniment would offer cardiovascular benefits, opposite to the effects of equally available salt, sugar, and high-fat condiments.
... complimentary statin packets would add, at little cost, 1 positive choice to a panoply of negative ones.
The authors, scientists at Imperial College London, note that generic simvastatin (Merck (MRK)'s Zocor) is already available without a prescription in the U.K., and the price has fallen so far that "the cost to the NHS of seeing a doctor is much greater than the cost of the tablet."

Drug companies would like it very much if it became normal for otherwise healthy people to start taking cholesterol pills as a preventive measure. AstraZeneca (AZN) persuaded the FDA to approve Crestor as a preventive measure. And Pfizer (PFE) is preparing a chewable version of Lipitor for kids.

Not everyone is on board with the campaign. Some cholesterol skeptics believe the benefits of statins have been oversold:

... three studies published in the Archives last month, medical researchers found that, contrary to widely held belief, statins do not drive down death rates among those who take them to prevent a first heart attack.
A second article cast significant doubt on the influential findings of a 2006 study, called JUPITER, that has driven the expansion of statins' use by healthy people with elevated blood levels of C-reactive protein, a measure of inflammation.
There is, of course, no chance of McDonald's, Burger King (BK) et al. choosing to offer pharmaceuticals with their burgers. To do so, management would have to admit their product is at base unhealthy. Plus, do you really want those teenage shift workers at the checkout to be in charge of making sure each patient -- customer, sorry! -- only gets one pill?

So do not expect to hear "Would you like a statin with that?" anytime soon.


Image by Flickr user Hirotomo, CC.