Eat, drink and get pregnant



The controversy over the “statins have no side-effects” report, discussed in this column a fortnight ago, has prompted some backsliding, with one of the authors, Dr Ben Goldacre of London University, conceding the data on which they based their conclusion was “flawed”.

The drug companies that sponsor the relevant clinical trials, he observed, “may not be motivated to search exhaustively for potential side-effects”, while a substantial proportion of side effects are omitted from the published version of the studies as they appear in academic journals.

Meanwhile, a reader who plays chess competitively — to club standard — noted that he could “see things over the board more clearly” whenever he had forgotten to take his Atorvastatin. He decided to stop taking the drug completely, and over a couple of months his official grading as a chess player shot up nearly 30 points (“some way above the average of club players in Britain”) and he “swept the board” in three successive tournaments.

It is likely that a formal study of statin-taking chess players would provide a rather more accurate assessment of the drug’s adverse effects on cognitive ability than can be found in drug company-sponsored clinical trials.



This week’s medical query comes courtesy of Mrs LE of Bedfordshire, who reports how several times a year on retiring to bed she has an attack of “the most excruciating and agonising pain” that seems to arise from either ear, or the third tooth from the back on either side of the lower jaw.

The pain progresses down to her neck, her arms, chest and back, lasting up to an hour. Once it is over and she has had a good night’s sleep, she is fully recovered the following morning. The attacks tend to come on following a few days’ anxiety about some issue or other, and she would be more than interested to learn whether anyone else has had a similar experience.



Finally, my thanks to a reader for passing on her most interesting remedy for heartburn and acid reflux, prompted by her observation that she is much less troubled by her symptoms in the summer compared with winter. She speculated that this might be related to the fact that during the summer she goes swimming most days and that plying up and down the pool doing the breaststroke might strengthen her diaphragm, giving it a tighter grip on the oesophagus and thus preventing the upward reflux of acid from the stomach.

Accordingly, since Christmas, she has taken to incorporating into her keep-fit regime the practice of simulating the same muscular movements as those involved in doing the breaststroke.

“I have not been troubled by heartburn since,” she writes.

Email medical questions confidentially to Dr James LeFanu at Answers will be published every Friday, at

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