John Mann reviews this anecdotal and fact based text
Triumph of the heart: the story of statins
Jie Jack Li
Oxford: OUP 2009 | Pp218 | £19.99 | ISBN 978 0 19 532357 3
Reviewed by John Mann
For the pharmaceutical industry, the statins are a dream come true. These cholesterol-lowering drugs are often prescribed to people in their 40s and 50s, and since these patients are then less likely to die from a heart attack or stroke, they will consume statins for 30 or 40 years. In the UK sales of statins run at over a £billion per year and worldwide these drugs generate sales in excess of $25 billion for the drug companies. In this book Jie Jack Li, a medicinal chemist at Pfizer, enthusiastically tells the story of the discovery and development of the statins.
The author starts by describing the discovery of the link between cholesterol and heart disease. Here and throughout the book, his anecdotes about the people involved are as fascinating as the facts about the drugs. Much of the book is concerned with the biggest blockbuster statin, Lipitor, and the rise and fall of the various drug companies who were (and are) involved with this drug. It is a tale of serendipity, hard graft, frustration, then triumph, followed by company merger, and hostile takeover; and the human stories are just as interesting as the underlying evolution of the drug.
One additional bonus is that each key pharmaceutical company receives a brief but informative historical analysis before its involvement in statin research is described. The book is highly readable and also well referenced. I strongly recommend it - the book is a real triumph.