Life Extension Magazine June 2003
As We See It
Life Extension Magazine June 2003
As We See It
Cardiac Drugs that Cause Heart Attack
50,000 Americans killed by one class of drug
In the April 1995 issue of Life Extension magazine, we published an article that exposed the dangers of a class of anti-arrhythmic drugs the FDA had approved to prevent lethal heart arrhythmias.
In our 1995 article, we introduced evidence that the FDA knew of the risks these drugs posed, but approved them anyway. When the FDA was confronted with accusations that they improperly approved these drugs, their excuse was that they had a theory that these drugs would save the lives of more people by preventing abnormal heartbeats than they would kill by causing abnormal heartbeats. The problem was that the FDA had no evidence that these drugs would save even a single life.
Even after a large study conducted by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute showed that these drugs had killed large numbers of Americans; the FDA's response was not to remove the drugs, but merely to suggest changes on the drugs labeling.
True to its word, the FDA did mandate a change in the labeling of at least one of these anti-arrhythmic drugs (Tambocor®). On page 1,889 of the year 2003 Physician's Desk Reference, a large warning box appears containing the following statement:
"An excessive mortality or non-fatal cardiac arrest was seen in patients treated with Tambocor® compared with that seen in patients assigned to a carefully matched placebo-treated group. This rate was 16/315 (5.1%) for Tambocor® and 7/309 (2.3%) for the matched placebo."
What this warning means is that if you take Tambocor® (flecainide), your risk of dying or suffering a heart attack is more than double compared to if you took a placebo.
The sordid history of the FDA's approval of Tambocor® and other lethal Class I anti-arrhythmic drugs is chronicled in the book Deadly Medicine by Thomas J. Moore. Life Extension offered this book to members in 1995 and there are still a few copies in print.
What I am doing to postpone aging
Some people have healthy genetic predispositions and are able to enjoy a long life relatively free from the agonies of aging. I am not one of these fortunate individuals.
For instance, my first homocysteine blood test revealed a distressingly high level of 11 (micro mol/L), whereas the optimal range to prevent heart attack should be less than 7. What was surprising was that I was taking lots of folic acid and moderate amounts of vitamins B12 and B6. To see if I might be genetically predisposed to high homocysteine, I had my father's blood levels checked. His homocysteine reading was a staggering-high 22, and he was taking moderate amounts of folic acid and B12.
My father had suffered a heart attack at age 53 and by age 77 had severe coronary artery occlusion. It was clear that hyperhomocysteinemia was part of my family history. In order to suppress my homocysteine to 7, I needed to take 750 mg a day of vitamin B6 and 1000 mg a day of trimethylglycine (TMG). Most people do not need this much B6, but my genetic predisposition mandated aggressive homocysteine-lowering therapy. If I had not taken this blood test, I would have assumed my vitamin supplements were adequate to keep my homocysteine levels in safe ranges.
When a blood test revealed that my triglyceride levels shot up to 140 (mg/dL), I increased my fish oil intake and dropped them down to 66. Were it not for these blood tests, I would have been inflicting damage to my coronary arteries that could have led to an early life heart attack.
At the age of 44, I discovered that my free testosterone blood levels had dropped to below normal while my estradiol had shot up to dangerously high levels. I was obviously aromatizing my testosterone into estrogen. Aggressive steps to correct this hormone imbalance were taken, and this produced the most dramatic age-reversing effect I have yet to experience. I literally became 15 years younger as defined by a number of parameters. If I had not had my blood tested for testosterone and estradiol, I would have assumed that I was slowing down because of normal aging.
It is impossible to follow an optimal personal life extension program without having annual blood tests. There are too many individual variables to account for when deciding what supplements, hormones and drug therapies are needed.
While I take huge quantities of supplements to reduce my risk of contracting disease, I would be shooting in the dark if I did not have my blood checked at least once a year to fine tune my program.
The most effective way of preventing heart attack
Looking back on the history of coronary heart disease in the United States, the death rate peaked in 1963 and has dropped continuously since.23 The future may hold a reversal in this trend, in part because more people are living longer and therefore are more vulnerable to coronary heart disease.
Although overall heart attack prevalence and mortality rates have been declining during the past two decades, statistics from the American Heart Association24 indicate that, with the aging of the population, the actual number of patients afflicted with heart disease will increase. In addition, sudden death is the only manifestation of coronary heart disease in nearly one-third of cardiac patients. Considering these facts, the prevention of heart disease should be a major focus of health conscious people.
There are numerous components of the blood that reveal underlying risks for contracting cardiovascular disease. These include C-reactive protein, HDL/LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, homocysteine, fibrinogen, fasting insulin and free testosterone. Correcting these risk factors is the most effective way of protecting yourself against developing heart disease.
Since 1996, members of The Life Extension Foundation have been able to order their own blood tests. If abnormalities are found, they can take the results of these tests to their doctors or make lifestyle changes in an attempt to correct underlying risk factors for future disease.
Life Extension has a staff of physicians to assist members when questions arise about the results of their blood tests. Until June 1, 2003, members can order their own blood tests at significantly discounted prices. The test results are mailed directly to the member and they can then call for a free consultation with a Life Extension physician.
This unique program, whereby a member has toll-free access to licensed medical doctors, is the only one of its kind in the world. The objective of offering this personalized professional service is to keep Life Extension members alive so that they don't miss out on pending anti-aging breakthroughs. The next page provides information about how to obtain these discounted blood tests.
I have heard members complain that they are too busy to have their blood tested. When this excuse is raised, I ask the member to try to imagine what will happen to their busy schedule if they are sidelined for 60 days with a severe heart attack - assuming that they are lucky enough to survive the heart attack.
As a personal beneficiary of having my blood tested each year, I can attest to the fact that the findings from these tests have enabled me to make adjustments to my life extension program that statistically reduce my future risk of contracting age-related disease.
Why I am so optimistic
There has never been a time in scientific history as exciting as today. As you will read in this issue Life Extension magazine, a multi-million dollar project that we funded has resulted in the discovery of a drug that can alter some of the genes involved in aging. This may enable us to stay biologically younger for decades longer, thus possibly increasing the human life span to over 120 years!
As a Life Extension member, you are the first to learn about what may be the most significant anti-aging breakthrough ever made. This groundbreaking research was funded through your membership dues, donations and product purchases. Foundation members should be proud to have contributed to this unparalleled scientific venture.
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3. Circulation Supplement II Vol 106, No 19 Nov 5, 2002 Abstract 1494.
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18. Experimental Biology 2003 Meeting Abstract #A805.
19. U.S. Center for Disease Control http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5120a4.htm.
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22. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich) 2002 Sep-Oct;4(5):325-31.
23. The Health Century. New York: Doubleday, 1987.
24. American Heart Association http://126.96.36.199/statistics/understand.html.