In the summer of 2007, nearly a year later, Stephen had a heart attack. And, approximately six months after that his the doctors discovered that two of the arteries leading to his heart were so blocked they required stents, and one artery was completely gone - a result of his heart attack. Stephen had been on Vytorin all this time.
"My doctor put me on Vytorin to take care of the cholesterol. At that time there were no issues or problems with my heart - the EKG indicated that my heart was healthy," Stephen said. "After I was put on Vytorin I was biking to and from work about three days a week - so that's about 25 miles. I had reduced my cholesterol substantially, and my doctor was monitoring me."
"Then, one day last summer, I was cycling in a 35-mile tour; I was at about mile 30- going uphill, when I had a heart attack. Suddenly I saw electricity shooting up in front of my eyes, and I was unconscious before I hit the ground. I felt no pain. I didn't even know I hit the ground. I just came to on the pavement. I didn't know I'd had a heart attack."
The heart attack completely blew out one of Stephen's arteries. But that would remain undiscovered for many more months.
His fellow cyclists called in a life-support helicopter and Stephen was taken to hospital. "The doctors checked for brain problems, and blockages in the arteries leading to the brain," he said. "Because my EKGs were so good, they didn't think there was a problem with the heart." As a testament to how fit Stephen was, he peddled home from the hospital.
Over the next several months Stephen continued to work out five times a week, and his doctor continued to monitor his cholesterol, which looked good. But suddenly, in March 2008 things changed, for the worse.
"I was getting really weak, I couldn't catch my breath. Things just didn't seem right," Stephen said. "I went to the doctor and he did another EKG. He called me the next day and said ' your heart's changed'. He sent me for a stress test, which I just started, when the doctor said 'OK. You're done.' The EKG showed that I had a serious problem."
"So they sent me to a cardiologist on a Thursday, and on the following Monday they put two stents in two arteries. That's when they discovered that the other artery was gone - there was nothing there to put a stent into," Stephen said.
This came as complete surprise to Stephen and his doctors, because his EKGs were always so good. "The doctors weren't looking for heart problems. I went for a year and a half with nothing wrong, the tests all showed that everything was fine,' he said. "Then all of a sudden all this stuff starts happening. What's with that?"
Needless to say, Stephen is not on Vytorin any longer. His doctors took him off it immediately following his surgery. But when he had his heart attack Stephen asked his doctor about the effectiveness of Vytorin. "I asked my cardiologist about Vytorin, and he said that despite all the articles and news reports they hadn't taken Vytorin off the market. That was his comment."
Stephen would be interested in seeing what can be done legally. After all, he was taking a drug for nearly two years, in good faith, that apparently was not working as advertised. He was not taking any medications prior to being put on Vytorin. Now, he's on a cocktail of medicines for his heart. He did everything he was supposed to do to stay healthy and reduce his cholesterol, and in the end that's likely what saved his life, and prevented him from having a far worse outcome, not the Vytorin.