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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Statins. An attempted rehabilitation by Big Pharma?

Most new pharmaceutical drugs are heralded as 'wonder cures' or 'main bullets', none more so than Statin drugs. When drug companies found that statins reduced cholesterol, they invented a connection between cholesterol and the heart. So taking statins reduced cholesterol and our hearts would benefit. Yet finding any real link between cholesterol of heart disease is proving difficult to find, other than its ability to sell the drugs!

However, statins, had arrived, and pharmaceutical companies proceeded to invent yet another lie. They were, they said, entirely safe! Indeed they were so safe we should ALL be taking them! So prescriptions for statins rocketed, and the pharmaceutical cash registers sang their songs of profit. The  drug companies were delighted.

But then, as happens with all pharmaceutical 'wonder' drugs, problems began to emerge. Statin drugs were not 'entirely safe', although the drug companies, the drug regulators, our doctors, and the mainstream media, decided not to tell the general public. The usual mantra was recited. The benefits outweigh the advantages! But as the years passed, and the evidence increased, his was increasingly difficult to justify. Doubts began to multiply about just how bad cholesterol was for our health.

The situation took a serious turn for the worse in 2010 when a Nottingham university study was published in the British Medical Journal. It found that people taking Statin drugs have a higher risk of
  • liver dysfunction, 
  • kidney failure, 
  • muscle weakness,
  • cataracts. 
The study was a large one, covering over 2 million people in Britain. Yet the list of adverse reactions was even then not comprehensive. The link between Statin drugs and diabetes (now at epidemic levels and usually blamed on our diet) was now linked to this 'entirely safe' drug.

Worse was to follow. The FDA (the USA drug regulator) reported on its website in January 2015 that statins were also linked with memory loss, confusion and dementia. The FDA stated that "it has been been investigating reports of coagnitive impairment from statin use for several years" and that "the agency has reviewed databases that record reports of bad reactions to drugs and statin clinical trials that included assessments of cognitive function." The report stated that memory loss, forgetfulness and confusion spanned "all statin products and all age groups."

Even some doctors now became concerned, and there was an increasing reluctance to prescribe them. So the pharmaceutical industry began to worry about its profits. It needed to take action. And, as they normally do in such situations they turned to medical science to help them preserve their most successful and profitable drug.

Scientists were recruited, (very carefully as we will see) and they produced a report that was published in the Lancet on 1st September 2016. "to help clinicians, patients, and the public make informed decisions about statin therapy for the prevention of heart attacks and strokes."

Basically, the report said that the benefits of Statin drugs were being under-appreciated, and the side effects were being exaggerated. Indeed, they found that the RCT evidence of the benefits were strong, and that the adverse events attributed to statins were not actually caused by them!

These findings were reported without too much critical examination by the mainstream media, and no doubt many people were re-assured. After all, medical science had spoken!

Yet this is a typical response of the pharmaceutical industry when profitable drugs begin to decline, when patients become more resistant, when even doctors are no longer willing to take the reassurances of the drug companies at face value, and are increasingly reluctant to prescribe them.

               It has happened in exactly the same way with HRT, and I wrote about it recently (August 2016) in this blog.

               And it happened in exactly the same way with MMR, when the vaccine was linked with Autism in the early 2000's. I wrote about this in September 2015.
  • Find money for some more medical research on the drug. 
  • Select the 'scientists' who are prepared to produce a report that refutes the doubts, and supports the efficacy of the drug. 
  • Make sure that the academic foundations doing the work is well funded. 
  • And make sure that their media allies publicise the new research!
So how was this Lancet report funded? Within the report, tucked away, there is a rather long 'declaration of interests' statement. This confirms that the 'Clinical Trial Service Unit & Epidemiological Studies Unit' (CTSU) at the University of Oxford received grants from some of the largest pharmaceutical companies, including Abbott, AstraZeneca, Bayer, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, Schering, and Solvay. There followed a long list of 'declarations of interests' by each of the reports authors, all "governed by University of Oxford contracts that protect its independence", of course

Most media accounts of this report, if they bother to mention these conflicts of interest at all, do so only in passing. For instance, the BBC Article, reports almost exclusively on the 'good news' of the report, leaving just a few short sentences at the end to indicate that there are critics of the report. Fiona Godlee, editor of the British Medical Journal, is quoted as saying that:

          "This still does not address the calls for a thorough, independent review of the evidence of statins. This is especially important in view of the guidance which recommends that large numbers of healthy people should take a tablet every day."

Then, London cardiologist, Dr Assem Malhotra, is quoted as saying that:

          "There are serious question marks about the reliability of industry-sponsored studies on the side effects of statins, and essentially that's what this review is. And a lot of the scientists involved in the original studies were involved in this review. It is not an independent review."

The Huffington Post published an article in April 2016 by Dr Assem Malhotra, entitled "The Great Statin Con", and this is well worth reading as it contains more on his experience and criticism of Statin drugs. (And certainly the BBC is never likely to publish them)!

So only those people who bothered to read to the bottom, the small print, of the BBC article would have got this message. This is typical of BBC News, and the mainstream media generally. They exist to do the bidding of the conventional medical establishment!

And worse is likely to follow. This report will now be used by the media to stifle any further discussion. Medical science has spoken! No counter arguments will be allowed for several years, until the evidence of Statin harm becomes overwhelming, and impossible to ignore.

Meanwhile, patients who have not been properly informed, will continue to take Statin drugs; they will suffer their side effects,'the pharmaceutical companies will continue to profit from them; diabetes, dementia, and other statin 'side effects' will continue to increase; and the NHS will be moved another step towards bankruptcy!

Well, that's how the conventional medical establishment works!