Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content

Tv Home

Navigation

STORY ARCHIVE

Heart of the Matter Part 2 - Cholesterol Drug War

Heart of the Matter Part 2 - Cholesterol Drug War

Do statins really reduce your risk of heart disease?

TRANSCRIPT

 
Bookmark and Share

download segment mp4 (average size 10 MB)


HeartPartII-4_small.jpg

The views expressed in this episode of Catalyst are not intended as medical advice. Please consult with your doctor regarding your medications.

NARRATION
We've been told that medications to lower cholesterol will save lives.

Professor Beatrice Golomb
We repeatedly hear from patients that their doctors tell them, 'If you don't take this, you will die.'

NARRATION
Over 40 million people worldwide take drugs to lower their cholesterol. But now there's evidence that the majority of them won't benefit.

Professor Rita Redberg
None of those people are less likely to die.

NARRATION
I speak to doctors accusing the drug companies of distorting the evidence about the drug's side effects.

Dr John Abramson
Of course they're going to try to minimise the adverse events 'cause that will increase the sales of their drugs.

Professor Beatrice Golomb
In its effect it's certainly scientific fraud, and in its effect it's organised crime.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
So how do these drugs work? And are they really safe? I've come to the United States to investigate how drugs to lower cholesterol came to be the most widely prescribed drugs in the history of medicine.

NARRATION
The '80s saw the debut of a new weapon in the battle against heart disease - a novel class of drugs called 'statins' that lowered cholesterol like no other medication before them.

Dr Ernest N Curtis
They were heralded as... Nirvana. The next great thing. Because all of a sudden, now you're getting 30-40% reduction with statins, which was huge. And this was great news to the people who were pushing the cholesterol theory, because they said, 'Aha! Now we don't have to settle for these piddling little amounts anymore - we can really show how important cholesterol is by knocking it way down.'

Man, in advertisement
..medical information comes along that say you may need to get...

NARRATION
In the US, influential TV ads like this use popular actors to boast the enormous potential of these drugs.

Man, in advertisement
Crestor, along with diet, can lower bad cholesterol by up to 52%.

NARRATION
But the reality is - lowering your cholesterol with medication doesn't guarantee you won't have a heart attack.

Professor Rita Redberg
The marketing concentrates on the fact that you can lower your cholesterol as if that was the end in itself, which it is not. Cholesterol's just a lab number. Who cares about lowering cholesterol unless it actually translates into a benefit to patients?

NARRATION
Over the decades, drug companies have had an enormous vested interest in statin drugs.

Dr Ernest N Curtis
It's the most profitable group of drugs in the history of the world. Something like $15 to 25 billion, with a 'B', per year, spent on these drugs. So that's higher than the gross national product of many countries around the world.

Dr John Abramson
Lipitor is the bestselling drug in history. So in terms of cost, total sales of Lipitor have been in the range of $140 billion since it came on the market in 1996.

NARRATION
Statins work by disabling a critical step early in the formation of cholesterol.

Dr Jonny Bowden
There's a pathway that produces cholesterol in the body. You could think of it like a tree. So, we've decided collectively that one of the branches of this tree is bad, meaning cholesterol. So we've decided that the best way to get rid of that branch is to cut the tree off at the root.

NARRATION
Statins inhibit this enzyme, which is also required for essential molecules like Coenzyme Q10. Nutritionist Dr Jonny Bowden says CoQ10 is essential for optimal heart muscle function.

Dr Jonny Bowden
This is partly, we believe, why so many side effects have to do with lack of energy, muscle pain - because Coenzyme Q10 is so vital. So what's the irony of giving people a drug to reduce something that probably doesn't even have that much to do with heart disease, that also reduces one of the molecules that's most necessary for heart health? How insane is that?

Dr John Abramson
It's assumed that the cholesterols a toxic substance in your body and getting it as low as you can is a good thing. Well, cholesterol is the organic molecule that's most common in your brain, by weight. It's in every cell wall. It's the precursor of many of the hormones in our body. It's an enormously complex molecule. And to think that you can radically pull this out of the body and not have consequences is just... it's ridiculous, it's such bad science.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
It's been about 30 years since statins were first introduced as the new blockbuster drug in heart disease. And millions of people around the world are being prescribed these medications. But many are concerned that the benefits of these drugs have been grossly exaggerated.

NARRATION
Professor Rita Redberg is a world-renowned cardiologist. She says, barring a genetic condition, the only people who live longer by taking a statin are those that have already had a heart attack or stroke.

Professor Rita Redberg
Valve's working great.

Patient
That's good.

Professor Rita Redberg
Yeah.

NARRATION
And of them, only a very small number will benefit.

Professor Rita Redberg
One or two people in a hundred will benefit from taking a statin. What people don't understand is that means the other 98 will get no benefit at all. It's not going to reduce their chance of dying.

NARRATION
But this hasn't limited their use. These drugs are now being widely prescribed to relatively healthy people - those without diagnosed heart disease. And Dr Redberg warns most of them won't benefit.

Professor Rita Redberg
For healthy people, even people that have a lot of risk factors. So they might have high blood pressure, they might smoke, they might have diabetes. The data is not there to suggest that those people are better off taking a statin. No, I don't think it's a wonder drug.

NARRATION
But Dr David Sullivan disagrees. He says all the risk factors should be considered equally, including cholesterol.

Assoc Prof David Sullivan
If you want to mount these arguments about not treating the cholesterol, you've got to take the responsibility of saying it's not necessary to treat these other risk factors either. I would certainly encourage people who are considering cessation of treatment for perceived side effects and so forth to discuss it with their doctor.

NARRATION
In 2012 there was an interesting turn of events. The CTT collaboration, a highly regarded group of researchers, reanalysed all of the old data with different methods and concluded that statins were effective for the wider population. The report was subject to harsh criticism, but it's still the data that many cardiologists turn to. The media jumped on board and reported that everyone over the age of 50 should be taking a statin to reduce their risk of heart disease, even if you had normal cholesterol. But Professor Redberg says there's a downside.

Professor Rita Redberg
None of those people are less likely to die. So you can take a statin for many, many years and you're just as likely to die as if you had not taken a statin.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
Unless you've already been diagnosed with heart disease, then taking a statin won't help you live longer. It may reduce your risk of a cardiovascular event, but it may also increase your risk of developing something else, like diabetes. Either way, taking a statin won't extend your life span.

NARRATION
Dr Abramson says cardiologists are so focused on how these drugs prevent blood vessel disease they often overlook the other problems caused by statins.

Dr John Abramson
People are more than their cardiovascular system, and what we really want to do is improve people's overall health, longevity and the risk of serious illness. If you look at overall health, we haven't done anything for them. Now, do people want to take a statin to trade one cardiovascular event for some other very serious illness - in other words, no net benefit - and expose themself to the risk of harm from the statins? Do you want to do that? I think it's a bad deal. If somebody has a particular fear of heart disease and says, 'Look, I don't care if I get diabetes, I don't care if I have muscle symptoms, I don't care if I can't exercise the way I want to exercise, I do not want to have heart disease,' fine, take a statin. But understand that that's why you're taking a statin, not because it's going to improve your overall health.

NARRATION
Cardiologist Dr Ernest Curtis says the absolute benefit of statins is so minor that it's unlikely to be because of their ability to lower cholesterol. He says statins probably work through other mechanisms.

Dr Ernest N Curtis
It seems very likely that the amount of reduction that they saw with the statin agents could easily be due to its effect on the blood clotting, and possibly the anti-inflammatory effect, and have nothing to do with the cholesterol.

NARRATION
Dr Golomb has scrutinised the data, and she's even more sceptical about the value of these drugs, especially in women.

Professor Beatrice Golomb
Right now the evidence has not supported benefit to women, even if they have heart disease, in terms of mortality and all cause morbidity. It has not shown benefit to elderly, even if they have heart disease. In fact, in the 4S trial, there was a 12% increase in mortality in the women in that group who were assigned to statin rather than placebo. So the evidence really doesn't support that the benefit is the same for women and for men. And on top of that, women are at higher risk of complications from statins.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
Should women take cholesterol-lowering medication?

Professor Beatrice Golomb
In general, no. Now there may be exceptions. Medicine actually does have an element of art. And if women are from a family with severe familial hyperlipidaemia, where a lot of people are dying from heart disease in their 30s and 40s, that's a group where I would say there is an art.

NARRATION
There are now calls for patients to give written consent before taking a statin.

Professor Beatrice Golomb
If you do plan to give statins to women, to elderly, to people at low risk, they should sign a consent form saying they understand that they're receiving a drug that will not extend their life, but will only shift the cause of death. I think patients have a right to know that before they agree to take on a medication.

NARRATION
The National Heart Foundation of Australia agrees that people are being prescribed statins unnecessarily.

Dr Robert Grenfell
I would agree that there are people in Australia today who are being treated for cholesterol where their cardiovascular risk is not high. And you have to question whether they should in fact actually be on that.

NARRATION
A report estimated around 75% of people taking statins are in the low to moderate risk category, and, according to these researchers, that means up to 30 million people are taking a drug that won't offer them the benefit of living any longer.

Edward
My doctor pointed out that my cholesterol levels were high and that I should take some sort of medication to reduce the cholesterol level.

NARRATION
There was nothing wrong with Edward's health, apart from his high cholesterol. He took his doctor's advice and began taking a statin.

Edward
After about two weeks I was having a difficult time walking in the daytime, and at night I had trouble sleeping, my legs ached. I was definitely experiencing a memory loss. I didn't feel that I could recall things as clearly as I did before I was taking the statin.

NARRATION
Statins have a long list of side effects - like muscle weakness, memory loss, and, in rare cases, a potentially fatal condition called rhabdomyolysis, where muscles break down and cause kidney failure. Edward decided to stop taking his medication.

Edward
I started feeling better after about three weeks to maybe a month afterwards.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
How long did it take for you to get 100% improvement?

Edward
100% better took from the time I stopped taking the statins, it took six months.

Professor Rita Redberg
They feel like they're in a fog, they can't get out of their chair - side effects that go away when they stop their statins. And I have patients come in and tell me they'd rather be dead than keep taking the statin.

Professor Beatrice Golomb
Some of them tell us that their doctors fire them as patients if they discontinue their statins, which I really wonder about the ethics of. Some of the people that we hear from also say that their doctor didn't believe them, that their problem couldn't be due to statins, and based on how patients perceive it, badger or bully them into resuming or continuing the medication. That's not an acceptable way for medicine, as a system, to be run.

NARRATION
But Dr Sullivan says it's possible that patients talk themselves into having side effects.

Assoc Prof David Sullivan
In alerting patients to some undesirable possibilities, and, in fact, maybe even through the power of suggestion, lead them to believe that they're experiencing those particular issues, which they would then blame on the drug when in fact it might be arising from other factors.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
Their imagination?

Assoc Prof David Sullivan
Um, look, I'd be reluctant to... I think a lot of these things aren't imagined. I think there are days when you can feel more of a muscle ache than others, and it can be age, it can be all sorts of other things.

NARRATION
Dr Golomb makes a stunning accusation about why she believes some doctors in the US may push their patients to take statins.

Professor Beatrice Golomb
I think they often intentionally hide those risks because there are often physician incentives that benefit the physician for having more patients on statins. So it pits physician self-interest against patient benefit. This particular woman contacted me, and she had left the practice that she was at because they insisted that at least... I believe it was 80% of her patients be on statins. This has actually been written up in media as something that is actually considered legal and acceptable. I can't see any way in which that's acceptable. I'm literally the only researcher I know who studies this class of drugs who has a policy not to take money from industry.

NARRATION
Statins are meant to be lifelong medications, but Dr Curtis says we don't know about the long-term side effects.

Dr Ernest N Curtis
The studies that have been done have generally been just a few years in duration. The long-term effects may not show up for many years. It may take many years for a cancer that develops to make itself manifest. Because cholesterol is so important in the brain, could it contribute to dementia when someone gets older if you lower their cholesterol? We don't know. Again, how would we be able to tie that to the drug? So all of these concerns about the unknown long-term side effects are very serious, in my opinion.

NARRATION
Harvard Doctor John Abramson is an expert in litigation involving drug companies. He says we're not being told the whole truth about the dangers of these drugs.

Dr John Abramson
We're told over and over again that statins are extremely safe. And when you look at the results of the clinical trials, you would conclude that they are safe. Problem is that the clinical trials are not designed to pick up all the side effects.

NARRATION
The CTT collaboration, for example, use mostly drug company data, and report very low levels of muscle side effects from statins. But when you look at the side effects in the general population, it's 100 times higher.

Dr John Abramson
Are the trials lying? No. I just don't think they ask the right questions. Why don't they ask the right questions? It's not in the interest of the drug companies to ask the right questions. So, it's creating the impression that the drugs are safe.

NARRATION
Another complication with clinical trials is that drug companies don't recruit volunteers that reflect the typical patient on statins.

Dr Robert Grenfell
The problem with the study design is that we exclude people with chronic disease or other comorbidities. We exclude people who are very old or very young, and we'll certainly exclude people with other types of risk factors or diseases that may interfere with the metabolism of the drug. So we often get a skewed picture of what the side effect profile is.

Professor Beatrice Golomb
The fraction of people with problems in my sort of real-world, on-multiple-medications, etc clinic is far higher. And I would say that in that sample it really seems in the order of a third of patients that develop problems.

Professor Rita Redberg
There are a lot of ways that one can manipulate data in a trial. Trials do what they call a washout period, and what that means is before they choose the people that are going to be in the trial, they give everybody the drug, and the people that have side effects get excluded from the trial. And they say that so people aren't uncomfortable when they are in the trial. But of course it takes out all the people that have side effects, and that's very commonly done in drug trials.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
So the side effects would be grossly underestimated.

Professor Rita Redberg
Yes, it would definitely grossly underestimate the number of people that have side effects. They're not as safe as they're made out to be, no.

Professor Beatrice Golomb
In its effect, it's certainly scientific fraud, and in its effect it's organised crime. It's always difficult to allege intent, but it is clear that manipulation of evidence subjects many people to treatments that those people should never have been subjected to.

Dr John Abramson
I think there is criminal activity that goes on. And I think when drug companies act in ways that misrepresent information that leads to harm, they ought to be held responsible, just like any other individual or organisation that conducts itself in a way that leads to harming other people.

NARRATION
Drug companies have a history of illegal activity. This is just a sample of the billions of dollars in fines they incur for things like fraud and bribery in any given year. In the '80s, when President Reagan came into office and slashed funding to the national institutes of health, it left a gaping hole for private industry to move in. Nowadays, around 85% of trials are funded by drug companies. A review concluded that if a drug company paid for a trial, it was 24% more likely to report the drug was effective and 87% less likely to report the drug's side effects.

Dr John Abramson
There is a sense that science is science, so it doesn't matter who pays for it. And yet because the research is privatised, the fundamental purpose for which it's conducted has changed. It's not to improve the public's health - it's to fulfil the fiduciary obligations of the sponsors and create an opportunity to maximise profits instead of improve the public's health.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
Some might say that that's a rather cynical view of how science works.

Dr John Abramson
To say it's cynical that commercial sponsorship of science taints the science is just totally naive. It's silly. Business is in business. Their job is to make money. We ought to be clear in our public discourse that to say we've got a bias in commercially sponsored research is neither cynical, nor paranoid, nor impolite - it's a fact. So let's just accept it as a fact and stop being naive at our own expense.

NARRATION
But, if big pharma doesn't pay, it will have to be the taxpayer.

Assoc Prof David Sullivan
A drug now costs about $2 billion to develop. The success rate of drugs is very low. You know, is the public purse going to be willing to shell out, in advance, $2 billion for a drug which it doesn't know the likely outcome of?

Dr Maryanne Demasi
Arguably, the biggest ethical issue in science is that drug companies withhold unflattering results. So, in the end, what we're presented with is a distortion of the data.

NARRATION
Two of the three major drug companies declined to comment. AstraZeneca denied these allegations, stating that all their trials are publicly available. But in 2010, the drug-maker reportedly paid a half a billion dollars to settle a class action after being accused of burying information about the increased risk of diabetes seen with their widely prescribed anti-psychotic drug, Seroquel.

Dr John Abramson
I spend a lot of time as an expert in pharmaceutical litigation, and one thing you learn is that you can't possibly know what's going with that drug unless you have access to the corporate hard drives. If you want to know the truth about a drug, you need to have subpoena power or, in litigation, discovery that gets you into those corporate hard drives. Because without getting into the corporate hard drives, it's impossible to know what the real benefits and the real risks of those drugs are.

NARRATION
Even the definition of 'high cholesterol' keeps changing. In 2004, a US panel of experts decided to lower the threshold of cholesterol, which sparked outrage amongst many doctors.

Professor Rita Redberg
More and more people think they have high cholesterol even though they don't have high cholesterol.

NARRATION
By changing the definition, it meant that millions more people became eligible for statins, and these thresholds were adopted by many countries around the world.

Dr Ernest N Curtis
Has this been on the basis of any scientific data? Absolutely not. Absolutely not, no evidence whatsoever, just the theory that less is better. You're creating more patients, you're creating more people who now have something to worry about where they didn't have anything before.

NARRATION
But Dr Sullivan insists this was a good decision.

Assoc Prof David Sullivan
I think what we actually started off with was maybe appropriately conservative targets which were really not in the patients' best interest. So the likely outcome is a further reduction in targets.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
More cholesterol lowering.

Assoc Prof David Sullivan
Yep, I think that's absolutely to be expected.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
The decision to lower the threshold of cholesterol was a controversial one. An investigation into the matter revealed eight out of nine panel members had a direct conflict of interest after declaring financial ties to the companies that manufactured statins.

Dr John Abramson
We don't have independent reviewers evaluating the data and making independent recommendations. You might ask, 'Am I accusing these people of selling their opinion because they're getting paid by the drug companies?' No, I'm not. I'm not accusing anybody of bad faith. But the people the drug companies choose to pay are people who advocate the use of their drugs, and have standing and presence and reputation that will enhance the sales of their drugs.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
So do drug companies seek out doctors to be their mouthpieces?

Dr John Abramson
Drug companies clearly seek out what's called key opinion leaders. These are people with a national reputation who can create the street knowledge for practising physicians, that this is the way things should be done.

NARRATION
There is ample published literature showing that doctors who receive money from drug companies have more favourable attitudes and prescribing habits towards that drug.

Dr John Abramson
There's no question that doctors are influenced by drug companies. And I hate to say it, but drug reps showing up in nice suits and fancy women's clothes without much medical education play a significant role in what doctors think. Now, there's no reason for doctors to be getting their information from drug reps, my goodness. The drug rep's job is to increase the sales of the drugs they represent. Doctors need to take some responsibility. They need to do their best to get independent knowledge, and they need to put political pressure on their governments to get the clinical trial data unsealed so they can know what the clinical trials really showed.

NARRATION
Many doctors feel obliged to follow the guidelines, even if they don't agree with them.

Dr Ernest N Curtis
They have to worry about malpractice suits if they don't follow the guidelines. An opposing attorney could make them look very bad in court by saying, 'Well, doctor, do you think you're smarter than this national group of recognised experts?' And this is a factor that's impelling doctors to follow the guidelines.

NARRATION
The push to lower cholesterol in the wider population continues.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
A group of doctors published an article claiming that statins could counter the effects of eating a burger. They suggested that statins be handed out as free condiments, just like ketchup.

Professor Rita Redberg
Because it gives people that false reassurance that it's OK if you eat this food that is not good for your health, because then you're going to take this pill that is going to make it OK. And that's very attractive, but it is a fallacy, it's just not true. And it's still bad for your health to eat processed foods, eat trans fats and have a regular diet of fast food hamburgers.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
And the absurdity doesn't stop there. Here in the US, it was even suggested that statins be put in the public water supply.

Dr Ernest N Curtis
I think this idea of handing out statins willy-nilly to everybody is totally irresponsible. You're talking about a drug with potentially toxic side effects, and a drug whose quote �beneficial effect' is extremely small, and whose benefit can be achieved with much less toxic drugs and even with some non-drug treatments.

Dr John Abramson
We're missing the message: that health rarely comes out of a bottle. Exercise and a Mediterranean-style diet is the best way to prevent heart disease. I think virtually everybody agrees with that. Now, it's very clear that when you look at the effects of exercise, they're far more powerful than statins. Moderate exercise, exercising the equivalent of two hours of brisk walking a week, adds about two years to your life compared to not exercising that much. Two years. Now, for statins for low-risk people? No benefit in longevity. So do you want to exercise, which is going to add two years to your life? Or do you want to take a pill that's not going to lengthen your life and has the risk of side effects? It's craziness.

Dr Maryanne Demasi
Until the science of clinical trials can break free from commercial interest, then decisions about our health rest in the hands of big business.

Topics: Health, Others
  • Reporter: Dr Maryanne Demasi
  • Producer: Dr Maryanne Demasi
  • Researcher: Dr Maryanne Demasi
  • Camera: Kevin May
    Dan Sweetapple
    Ken Butler
    Phil Hankin
    Daniel Shaw

    Additional Camera:
    Jeff Malouf
    Peter Sinclair
    Rachel Storey
  • Sound: Jeff Malouf
    Peter Sinclair
    Rachel Storey
  • Editor: Vaughan Smith

    Additional Researcher:
    Roslyn Lawrence
    Wendy Zukerman

Story Contacts

Professor Beatrice Golomb
Statin researcher,
Internal Medicine, University of California San Diego

Dr Ernest N Curtis
Cardiologist

Dr John Abramson
Harvard Medical School, Public School of Health

Professor Rita Redberg
Cardiologist,
University of California, San Francisco

Dr Jonny Bowden
Nutritionist

Assoc Prof David Sullivan
Physician � Lipid expert, RPAH Sydney

Dr Robert Grenfell
National Heart Foundation of Australia

Related Info


Who benefits from statins if they have not had a heart attack? O out of 100 deaths prevented.

Who benefits from statin is they have had a heart attack? 2 out of 100 deaths prevented.

^ top

YOUR COMMENTS


>> Add a Comment

-

Firstly I will state I have no medical qualifications whatsoever but I have qualifications in science and can read and digest reserch papers. Four years of reading material, mosty downloaded from the internet, basically confirm what catylist is saying ie statins do very little to improve your outcome re. heart disease in fact will cause, as in my case, major health problems.The ABC program is mainstream media finally coming to realise and broadcast what has been known and published for possibly 20 years or more regarding the negative effects of statins and modern diet ideas ie the food pyramid. Let me make it quite clear most GPs are NOT scientists and I suspect do not read in detail if at all the scientific literature or they would be a lot more sceptical of the claims made by the drug companies. I do suspect doctors are bullied by their union,the AMA into prescribing these nasty drugs in fear of litigation from patients who have been convinced by newspapers that statins save lives. I would say take responsibility for your own health and try to know MORE about your health problems than your doctor.
>> Reply

-

I hope all those who made comments here to the effect that this was such a well-researched programme saw Media Watch on Monday evening. As I commented earlier, a reasonably competent high school student would have seen this as emotive and biased. As always, there is an element of truth here but this episode of Catalyst lacked balance, and was certainly not up to the usual high standard of ABC programming.
>> Reply

-

Attn: Dr Maryanne Demasi
I was very interested in your programme but I'm concerned that your findings may be incorrect and misleading. I've just seen an article published on Bloomberg entitled "Cholesterol Guideline Changes Double Number on Treatments" which outlines the first U.S overhaul of guidelines for controlling cholesterol released in a decade. The new U.S. guidelines basically "recommend" and "encourage" the use of STATINS regardless of a persons cholesterol count. In effect, they are saying exactly the opposite to what you have presented in your programme. Obviously you can't both be correct so I think it's crucial that you research this further. Either the drug companies have influenced/bribed the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology to put out these guidelines (not impossible but unlikely) or your bias on this subject is wrong.
Either way I think you need to follow up on this and make a programme that either proves the corruption in the aforementioned U.S organizations or apologize for misleading the Australian people.
Below is the URL for the article.
Regards
Gary

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-12/cholesterol-guideline-changes-double-number-on-treatments.html
>> Reply

-

Well, I’m confused as well but I hope no one gets the chop for these two programs. I was looking forward to nice slice of dripping toast.
The ABC is one of very few sources of clear thinking and, near as damn it, truth around here.
So, keep up the good work. Don’t cower to the big end of town and the lunatic fringe – although a few eccentrics are welcome.


>> Reply

-

Maryanne, here is a suggestion.

Find a university student looking for a thesis subject.
Subject of the thesis: historical/statistical results of government recommended statin program. Then have the student access the government data bases which should be available sitting at ones computer. Statins have been given for some 20 years so data going back maybe 10 years should drive home the point. Collect the following, at a minimum.
Count people who were prescribed statins broken down by sex and listed by age.
Count doctor and hospital visits involving CVD (cardio vascular disease)issues including strokes and their side effects.
List the drug and the dose for each user.
List the length of use.
Collect info from death certificates as to cause and match that info CVD against statin users.
Compare all this against an equal number of non statin users.
Plz refer to my earlier post that I presented on this forum.

This is a general outline.

The purpose of drug studies is to present a platform for government to recommended a treatment program. Therefore, at some point a document should be presented that shows if the program is effective or not.
In any case it will make for an interesting thesis.

ps: the government should have this readily at hand and even if they do they wont publish it since it will undoubtedly shown how many hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted.
>> Reply

-

A serious side issue to the adverse effects of statin medications (or any other medication ) is the difficulty in reporting to the TGA the adverse effects experienced by a patient.
Only doctors are allowed to report and from frequent discussions about this with them I doubt if much reporting is done.
I have had very serious side effects from both stains and antibiotics and I could not make a report.
>> Reply

-

Cholesterol is good, saturated fat is good…
That was the message promoted by the doctors interviewed by Catalyst.
Completely opposite to what the vast majority of doctors have been telling us for decades.
If the interviewed doctors are right, Ok, let's drop statins. There is no point being exposed to the side effects of a useless medication.
But, if they are wrong, thousands of people may suffer premature death by following their advice.
On one hand ABC has spurred the interest of the viewer and to that aspect, it is good journalism.
On the other hand, ABC has created confusion by challenging the common consensus about the role of cholesterol and saturated fat and, if the promoted message is wrong, thousands of lives can be at risk
This is a serious issue.
I consider ABC should continue investigating, interviewing more doctors and researchers, setting up public panel with doctors, statins experts, organizers of clinical trials and representative of pharmaceutical companies.
ABC, in my mind, should go to the bottom of the problem or this program will stay what it is: a controversial journalistic performance which leaves the population confused and potentially at risk.
Don't play with people health for the sake of sensationalism.

>> Reply

    -

    Well said Hubert, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
    >> Reply

    -

    Hubert, your statement to not play with people's health is correct, & needs to be directed to the Pharmaceutical co.'s that have made $Billions from gross overuse of statins, & to the M.D.s that trust the "info" provided to them (most of which is Funded by Pharmaceutical companies). Sadly, people Are already suffering premature deaths & disease increase by following the advice to eat low fat diets with too many grains & carbs. Read "The Great Cholesterol Myth..." by Cardiologist Stephen Sinatra M.D. and "Grain Brain" by Neurologist David Perlmutter M.D. They will explain what to eat, what to avoid & Why. They are based on excellent science, and Sinatra's book will also explain why the Only people who should take statins are those who have already had a heart attack or hypercholesterolemia.
    >> Reply

-

Great piece of work to put these two programs together. You should be very proud of this work Maryanne. This was Catalyst at another level tackling a major and critically relevant public health issue in depth. The fact the screams were so loud from the medical establishment meant you hit a raw nerve.
>> Reply

    -

    The fact the screams were so loud from the medical establishment meant you hit a raw nerve.

    Right on David. Check my post earlier. On Oct 9 a tv station in Finland did a similar story. The interviewer tried to get any medical professor or doctor or government official to comment on the cholesterol issue but they all refused. One agreed but did not show up for the interview. The reason is obvious. They would have committed perjury by defending the official Finlands govt position.

    This is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on mankind.

    >> Reply

    -

    Of course it hit a raw nerve. Dr Uffe Ravnskov has been saying most of what was said on the Catalyst program for 20 years. Too much money to be lost if statin sales go down.
    >> Reply

-

This quote is from: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/abc-health-guru-dr-norman-swan-accuses-tv-science-program-catalyst-of-killing-people/story-e6frg6n6-1226753839228#sthash.zM4s4uCw.dpuf
Quote: Dr Lyn Weeks, the chief executive of the National Prescribing Service, said doctors would have to treat between 29 and 33 people with statins over five years to prevent one death from heart disease. But she said this was true of most medicines.

"People assume that all medicines work on everybody but they don't," she says. "The 30 per cent effect is good."
Unquote

I do not know where she came up with the 30% effect. My calculations put it about 3%. All in all pretty lousy odds. Who benefits here? Certainly not the patient or the taxpayer.


>> Reply

    -

    Half of all men in Australia will develop a heart attack, so it's the biggest killer and cost to our society. But atherosclerosis, which is commonly known as 'hardening of the arteries' also leads to stroke, dementia and kidney failure. In all it accounts for 65% of the chronic disease burden in Australia and when it presents it is often devastating and enormously difficult to reverse.
    So even though we don't see it, most of us are accumulating relentless damage in our arteries which will eventually significantly compromise the health of many Australians. Statin therapy is the most effective treatment for atherosclerosis by far and even though heart attack may not be seen for many years, they have been shown to reverse atherosclerotic damage in virtually everyone.
    NNT (numbers needed to treat) do not reflect the true value of these drugs because they reflect such a short time periods, viz. 5 years. Atherosclerosis is a lifetime disease which will kill 65% of Australians and statins ARE the best treatment. NNT is really only of value to economists in considering how to ration treatment. It's an economic consideration, not a medical one because for the physician it's all about what's right for your patient.
    You also have to be careful when you confuse population data with individual data. Population data assumes that we're all the same and what applies for one applies for all. This is not the case, we're all individuals with different genetics and lifestyle issues. If you're not really familiar with these kind of statistics then they can be quite misleading. Lies, damn lies & statistics!
    >> Reply

      -

      It is actually good science, not lies. The Only people who benefit from statin use are those who have already had a heart attack or have (rare) hypercholesterolemia. Read "The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why lowering your Cholesterol Won't Prevent Heart Disease- and the Statin-Free Plan that will" by Cardiologist Stephen Sinatra. I had better restate that; The others that benefit are pharmaceutical companies. Want to vastly improve your lipid profile, Way reduce heart attack risk factors, eliminate type 2 diabetes and lose weight? The key is to ditch grains, go low carb & eat Healthy saturated fats from sources such as coconut oil, grass fed beef, grass fed butter or ghee, avocados, & completely avoid seed oils (corn, soy, canola..., margarine), & obviously avoid trans fats. (Of course, exercise matters too). I know, it's counterintuitive to believe that saturated fats are beneficial. Decades ago, a scientist named Ancel Keys sought to prove that heart disease was associated with fat (particularly saturated) consumption. Only 7 out of 22 countries he studied showed any association. So, did he alter his theory as any honest, good scientist should? No. He deleted the 15 countries that didn't fit his hypothesis. (google "7 countries study"). His "Work" formed the basis of recommendations to reduce saturated fat consumption & increase so called healthy (Not!) grains. His "research" led to the "health" guidelines that have resulted in the unfortunate heart disease mess we are in today. Bty, I have applied the above food/ fats info. to my own Husband. It works; He is no longer @ high atherogenic risk, no longer type 2 diabetic, Triglycerides dropped from 197 to 119 in just 2 mos., for example. Remember that the medical community once thought cigarettes were safe, & Doctors actually appeared in ads promoting cigarette use. (1930's-1950's). I'm sure there was no ill intent by M.D.'s, But they listened to tobacco advise just as they listed to pharmaceutical co. advice today. Most of the studies done on statins are Funded by Pharm. co.'s. Can you say Conflict of Interest? Also, M.D.'s receive almost no training in nutrition, & much of the current nutritional advise is based on poor scientific method. You have to be willing to question the conventional medical "wisdom" and do your research for yourself. Yes, it takes time that many of us have too little of. But, it sure beats the alternative.
      >> Reply

      -

      Statins Only benefit those who have had previous heart attacks or have (rare) hypercholesterolemia. Otherwise, the risks of being on them are very significant. Please read "The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering your Cholesterol Won't Prevent Heart Disease- and the Statin-free Plan that Will" by Cardiologist Stephen Sinatra. Also, google: Ancel Keys 7 countries study. 15 countries Didn't fit his hypothesis that fat (especially saturated) is bad, so he deleted them from his study. This bogus study is the basis from which most current medical & nutritional "wisdom" stem. Another excellent resource on good & bad fats, + problems w/ grain consumption (it is all related) is "Grain Brain" by Neurologist David Perlmutter M.D. He also has an excellent website. Remember, many M.D.s used to Recommend cigarettes due to bad information. Question conventional "Wisdom" & do your own research. I did, & my Husband's heart disease risk is reversing.
      >> Reply

-

Another episode where there's a lot of cherry picking of ideas to construct a rather one sided report. So yes it does seem to be a compelling argument but it's not a strong one because you left the other side of the story out. What happened to the non biased, scientific Catalyst? If I wanted to watch a sensationalistic current affairs program, I'd be watching Four Corners.

Yes statin effectiveness probably has been overstated, yes doctors are under informed, BUT the science behind cholesterol is still not fully understood and is still being explored/debated. So I ask, is further undermining the publics confidence in the medical system as you have done here, before there's an overall scientific consensus, the right way to go Catalyst? There is already a lot of mistrust, conflicting views, bad quality information and much anxiety. Just look at the impact of fear of vaccines/fluoride because people don't understand them and there's so much incorrect information out there. We are fast becoming a risk adverse society, paralysed by fear. Considering the research that chronic anxiety/stress has many negative physical impacts, why are you adding to it with such biased reporting? Ratings?
>> Reply

-

Anyone who is concerned about the program failing to disclose conflicts of interest should have a look at these comments: http://www.raisin-hell.com/
The professional people criticizing the program have their own conflicts of interest , and mostly more serious ones at that!
>> Reply

-

Horrible programs, sorry ABC. Dr Johnny - what a creep. And what he sells from his website, he must be over-the-moon with the promotion through Catalyst. Some of the other real medicos would probably have preferred Maryanne to let them speak fully, instead of cutting them off and steering the direction of the discussion.

Personally I can't take statins, I get muscle soreness, however I am not overweight, I don't have hypertension, and my high-ish cholesterol is mostly HDL so my risk is low.

Catalyst must make a program to fully present the problems of heart disease, not one simply attacking statins.

Certainly, look at big-pharma, look at overprescribing, but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
>> Reply

-

Great report and very interesting to note that Sweden has just become the first Western nation to revise their dietary guidelines to support the high fat low carb diet http://healthimpactnews.com/2013/sweden-becomes-first-western-nation-to-reject-low-fat-diet-dogma-in-favor-of-low-carb-high-fat-nutrition/
>> Reply

-

At TheNNT.com we support the central message of this program, and we agree the statin data as presented.

We hope that viewers and readers will avail themselves of the opportunity to examine the relevant data summary (copy and paste web address below), including links to the original studies, and decide for themselves about the potential harms and benefits of statins for people without known heart disease.

David H. Newman, MD
Editor-in-Chief, www.TheNNT.com

http://www.thennt.com/nnt/statins-for-heart-disease-prevention-without-prior-heart-disease/

>> Reply

-

Thanks for the program. I had been prescribed a statin since having a heart attack at aged 42, recently I was taken off the medication due to muscle problems in my arms & legs, blood test found statin levels really high. I was told the side effects should reduce over about 1-2 months, 12+ months later I still suffer severe pain in my muscles. Thanks for the show, I'm seeking another doctors opinion.
>> Reply

-

A highly irresponsible program. Like climate change, the science is in, especially for those who are susceptible to cardiac disease. This is the group that matters, and the program could easily influence people in this group either to stop taking statins or not start even when their doctor suggests this.

This was alarmist nonsense more suited to commercial TV.
>> Reply

-

I have had very strong statins prescribed about 5 years ago even though my cholesterol was not too high.
I had very severe side effects like extreme muscle and joint pain, lack of energy , and feeling vague and problems with memory.
All the while my GP tried to talk me out of stopping the medication as he said the statins were not causing my symptoms.
After doing my own research and placing it clearly before him he finally agreed I should stop the statins.
What gets me is that they believe the drug companies more than the person who's body is being ravaged by such dangerous drugs.

Thanks Catalyst
>> Reply

-

Dear Catalyst,
In Heart of the Matter Part 2 Cholesterol Drug War, Professor Beatrice Golomb makes a HUGE claim regarding statin use and women, claiming that “Right now the evidence has not supported benefit to women, even if they have heart disease, in terms of mortality and all cause morbidity. It has not shown benefit to elderly, even if they have heart disease. In fact, in the 4S trial, there was a 12% increase in mortality in the women in that group who were assigned to statin rather than placebo.”
I decided to look at the research article myself and found nothing like what she has claimed. What I found was that in the case of women, overall deaths in the placebo group were 6% compared to 7% for the statin group. Of these deaths 4.04% were cardiovascular deaths in the placebo group and 3.19% were cardiovascular deaths in the statin group. This therefore shows a decrease in mortality for women using statins. Furthermore, I can see nowhere in the 4S study where women are divided into a subgroup of “elderly women” OR “elderly women with heart disease”, which apparently correlates to an increase in mortality of “12%” for statin use. If there is data to back up this HUGE claim, I would like to see it because I cannot see it in the 4S study she has referred to. Thanks.
>> Reply

-

In the program, Dr John Abramson says “it's assumed that the cholesterols a toxic substance in your body and getting it as low as you can is a good thing”.

Rosuvastatin (Crestor) acts to lower the “bad” (LDL) cholesterol but increase the “good” (HDL) cholesterol.

Does this mean that the body of a person on Crestor will not have had cholesterol “radically pulled out” (Dr Abramson’s words) but will simply have more HDL than LDL?

I wonder if a medical practitioner reading this can comment?

>> Reply

    -

    Andrew I'm taking creator and I am a medical practitioner. You're exactly right that crestor increases my HDL cholesterol and lowers my LDL cholesterol. I have an elevated LDL cholesterol and there is a family history of heart disease. I exercise regularly but cannot lower my LDL through diet & exercise alone. Crestor normalises my LDL cholesterol levels, to a level one might see in a country where meat and calories are not so readily available.
    Because of my age (over 50) my LDL cholesterol has become elevated through poor dietary habits earlier in life. Early life exposures influence gene expression and so my elevated LDL cholesterol has become 'locked in'. Around 50-60% of men over in Australia are in my position, though many won't know it and around 50% of all Australian men will have a heart attack, average age 67.
    >> Reply

-

If Norman Swan and the Australian Heart Foundation have a problem with your program, they can make public their own research findings and other evidence in support of statins.

Now the ABC could do a program on GPs over-prescribing anti-depressants.
>> Reply

-

An alarmist show designed to attract attention and ratings with lengthy interviews given to overseas fringe-dwellers who have books to sell, and minimal time given Australian expert researchers and practitioners to allow them to counter the wild conspiracy claims being made.
I'm with Norman Swan on this. The show was on a par with what the anti-immunisation crowd might come up with and there's a fair chance someone will die as a result.
Yet another example of the ABC being completely out of control.
>> Reply

-

I have been a long time viewer of Catalyst and have always considered the program to be quality science journalism. I am however concerned about the direction the program seems to be heading. I fear the coverage of cholesterol and treatments to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease represents a decline into sensationalist, populist journalism. It is not high quality journalism to ignore the balance of independently reviewed scientific evidence to present the minority, alarmist views of a select few, so-called experts looking for publicity. I understand that the ABC aims to attract an audience, however if I wanted to hear about fabricated, anti-establishment conspiracy revelations I’d watch “A Current Affair”. I don’t know whether to expect better from the ABC or wait for the next episode of Catalyst presenting “The views of Lord Monckton and how they reveal the truth about climate change”.
>> Reply

-

To anyone whom, or if you know anyone about to start on statins: I started taking statins about 2 months ago & have had side effects including; personality changes (poor judgement & anger), muscle aches, memory loss, trouble concentrating & blurred vision. I do have a complex medical condition that is under control but after this Catalyst report Im suspicious of why my doctor has put a relatively healthy,normal 31yo on statins.
>> Reply

-

Re: Cholesterol Myths, etc.

BRAVO! BRAVO!

Keep the 'faith' and hang in there Maryanne. I acknowledge it may get a bit 'bumpy' for a while.

Big power-brokers have had their toes stepped on, when they have become used to not being challenged in such a powerful and accurate way.

BRILLIANT expose that was looooooong overdue!

THANK YOU! THANK YOU, for your bravery and integrity to speak the truth.
>> Reply

-

There is a line between playing to peoples' bias using personal anecdote and conspiracy theories and science. Particularly on such an important topic as heart disease. Opening the door to the "deniers" is hardly a good thing, particularly when only one side has a real voice.

For example, the 1994 NIH long-term cohort study (500k people, 4000+ incidents) showed a clear correlation in 50+ year old men between the lowering of cholesterol and the reduction in heart disease. How has this study been refuted? Details, please.
>> Reply

-

Catalyst

Thank you for your courage and independence in this terrific piece of high quality journalism.

Michael
>> Reply

    -

    I was impressed by the program, and have stopped using Crestor after talking to my dr. Yes I have moderately high Cholesterol but all other factors are excellent - BP, family history, exercise, healthy diet, low stress. Recent blood test confirms - only slightly bad result was liver function - a side effect of statins! I am going to have an annual cardiac stress test from now on - paid for by foregoing Crestor tablets! HOWEVER - a question Catlayst needs to answer - the skeptic medicine website raises serious concerns about the relationship of one expert interviewed with the Palm Oil industry and the shonky college another was involved in. Given the several other legit experts (from Harvard, Uni of California etc) why use these people and not check them out properly or declare their dubious credentials?
    >> Reply

-

Thank you, Catalyst, for exposing the truth about cholesterol and the use of drugs to lower it.

The 'revolving door' between pharmaceutical companies, the FDA and the US government has enabled this fraudulent promotion of cholesterol lowering drugs. The situation is not much different in Australia where the TGA is funded by the industries it is supposed to be regulating, and health advisers to the government have financial ties with pharmaceutical companies.

The same sort of scientific fraud and data manipulation has occurred with many other drugs, including vaccines, and in the promotion of water fluoridation. Perhaps it's time for Catalyst to revisit and delve further into vaccination and fluoridation, and expose this fraud.
>> Reply

Moderator: Thanks for your post. You can find Catalyst stories about fluoride and vaccination at http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3821248.htm & http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3505097.htm

    -

    Yes, I am aware of those two programs, thank you Moderator. Unfortunately they did not mention the corruption and scientific fraud behind these issues - which is why I suggested Catalyst revisit them.
    >> Reply

-

I read this with great interest. From my personal experience with my 89 year old mother, the effects of Crestor that she was prescribed with caused her in 2 weeks to experience the Rhabdomyolsis where luckily her GP and a achilles heel problem (which masked the symptoms when she suffered aches where it was thought to be unbalance use of foot and gait) caused a blood test to be taken. Only then, with the blood results, was it found that her CK level was 24000 (kidney failure occurring). She was hospitalised immediately within 48 hrs of the blood test taken. From that time, she recovered with a fantastic kidney specialist in Sydney. The lessons learnt here, is 1) read about the medication your aged parents or anyone taking it to understand the side effects. 2) ask your doctor of what are the known side effects and if the doctor feels defensive, you can always google the drug description in the pharmaceutical website. eg I googled CRESTOR and I was able to read the side effects of muscle effects and the people groups to provide a lower dosage to (asians for eg.) 3) monitor and diarise changes to how you feel daily
4) see your GP with this diary 5) if unsure ask for a blood test/urine test to check what the results tell you (kidney, liver, etc). Its the only way to know how your body is coping. Hope this helps us to be a more informed group.
>> Reply

-

Excellent programs on the Cholesterol Myth.
Keep up the good work!
>> Reply

-

Long overdue - Thank You for putting the facts out there.
I was nearly killed by statins of several types and doses. Luckily my GP - not the prescriber - sent me for a creatine kinase test. It showed disastrous muscle loss. Plus memory loss, foul temper, in fact a total loss of worthwhile living. Now back to normal with statins in the bin.
>> Reply

    -

    Can I ask what you where prescribed, as I have had most of the same symptoms especially muscle pain & loss.
    >> Reply

-

Three things that I really liked about the 'Heart of the Matter Part 1 & Part 2' episodes...

1) At the end of the descriptive text titled "Dr Maryanne Demasi discusses the Cholesterol Myth", Maryanne's invitation to "Enjoy" is warmly characteristic of her nature & Mediterranean heritage & also her hope that the information presented will be helpful to people.

The Cholesterol Myth;
http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3876134.htm

2) Dr John Abramson's recommendation..."Exercise and a Mediterranean style diet is the best way to prevent heart disease". It reminded me of my mum's & grandmother's amazing traditional Greek cooking with lots of veggies.

The Mediterranean Diet;
http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/2389833.htm

http://www.abc.net.au/health/thepulse/stories/2013/04/15/3737114.htm

3) Towards the end of the 'Part 2' episode, there's a healthy pair of legs running over wet sand & they reminded me of Anja's Catalyst story "Exercise is Medicine",

Exercise is Medicine;
http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3515000.htm

Thanks Maryanne & Catalyst for a really excellent couple of episodes. I enjoyed watching them almost as much as I enjoy eating freshly cooked Spanakopita or Gemista (stuffed vegetables).

P.S. Here's a great recipe for Gemista. Feta cheese is a tasty accompaniment to the veggies...

http://www.hellasholiday.com/greece-travel-blog/gemista-stuffed-vegetables/

Enjoy!

>> Reply

-

What catalyst failed to mention was that some of the specialists interviewed in this article have a financial vested interest in people giving up the statins

http://www.jonnybowden.com/
http://www.drsinatra.com/

Just putting it out there
>> Reply

-

Thank you ABC for not cancelling this show!!!!
>> Reply

-

Catalyst presents several naive stereotypes, which it then knocks down as "straw man" arguments. The truth suffers.

The first false stereotype is that people with high cholesterol are likely to die or suffer a heart attack, unless protected by a statin. Of course this is wrong, but it was never part of the pro-statin argument. The truth is more nuanced. Even in high-risk groups, only about 3% may die of a heart attack per year. So how could the 97% who will be OK benefit from a statin - or any other preventive measure? The same dilemma applies to bike helmets, & car seat belts. None of these will ever benefit most people, who would never in a lifetime of driving be exposed to an injury-producing accident. They wear the seat belts and helmets for a lifetime for nothing. But since there is no way to identify in advance who will have an accident (or a heart attack or stroke), a blanket recommendation for high-risk groups is required. Is that a bad thing? It depends on your point of view. If you are a public health administrator, you can save tens of thousands of lives by recommending statins. If, on the other hand, you are one of the rare statin-takers who gets an unpleasant side-effect, you might not care much about these lives saved. But then, if you have a heart attack while not taking your prescribed statin, you might feel a touch of chagrin that you passed up the single most valuable preventive step available to you.

It's shameful that Dr Abramson says "exercise… is the best way to prevent heart disease", when he would know that despite the abundance of observational data, and many trials, there is not one experimental study showing unequivocally that exercise prevents heart attacks or deaths.

It's absurd to set the issue of whether or not statins cause muscle pain in a small percentage of people against their mortality benefit. OK, some people experience muscle pain - and may have to stop the statin. The risks and benefits need to be put into proportion. Even penicillin kills some people. Most cardiologists take statins, without complaining much about side-effects.

The only argument here with any merit is the possible disagreement between the benefit of statins for survivors of heart attack or stroke (secondary prevention) and the hard-to-prove benefit for those who haven't had one (primary prevention). It was asserted there was "no benefit at all" for primary prevention. Even if this were true for those at low risk, there is an intermediate-risk group, possibly with documented arterial disease (e.g. on CT) but so far no symptoms. Should they take a statin? Or wait for the heart attack? Probably a statin will offer them the same health benefit as those with more advanced disease, but before suffering permanent damage. Does that not make sense? The alternative is like reserving the use of bike helmets and seat belts for those who have already been
>> Reply

    -

    I thought the truth was well presented in both of the Catalyst episodes & favourably disposed to the health recommendation that Hippocrates made a long time ago...

    "Leave your drugs in the chemist's pot if you can heal the patient with food."

    In regard to some of your comments David, it's disrespectful to omit important details of what people actually said & to falsely accuse them of being "shameful". If you listen carefully to the Catalyst story & read the transcript, you'll notice that Dr Abramson said this...

    "We're missing the message: that health rarely comes out of a bottle. Exercise and a Mediterranean-style diet is the best way to prevent heart disease."

    Dr Abramson has nothing to be ashamed of: his comments are consistent with the findings of the 'Lyon Heart Study' that was mentioned in the Catalyst Part 1 episode. The Lyon Heart Study investigated the health benefits of a Mediterranean-style Diet & found it was very effective in reducing the death incidence from heart disease.

    A summary of details & results from the Lyon Heart Study can be found at the following link;

    http://www.slideshare.net/pronutritionist/lyon-heart-study

    >> Reply

      -

      Bill, I stand by my criticism. I omitted "important details" of Dr Abramson's statement for brevity, and because I have no quibble with his invoking the Mediterranean diet. I did indicate this omission in the standard way, with an ellipse (...), but unfortunately the Catalyst website replaced it with those strange characters in my quote "exercise ... is the best way to prevent heart disease".

      The Lyon Diet Heart study of course did not examine exercise, the focus of my criticism. Some form of the Mediterranean diet did reduce mortality in that study, but can you say it "prevented heart disease"? These were all people who'd already had a heart attack. Now 20 years later we have the PREDIMED study in Spain showing a mortality benefit in primary prevention. These results are great to have, but dietary trials showing any outcome benefit are pretty thin on the ground, especially compared with the multiple rock-solid statin trials. There are also serious questions about what a "Mediterranean diet" really means. In PREDIMED, it appeared to mean a litre of olive oil per week and a handful of mixed nuts.
      >> Reply

        -

        Hi David,

        I'm sorry to read that you stand by your criticism. Some important things to appreciate about Dr Abramson's comments are:

        1) "that health rarely comes out of a bottle."

        2) Dr Abramson wasn't suggesting that exercise, without the Mediterranean diet, can prevent heart disease. It's all about the heart-health benefits of combining exercise and a Mediterranean-style diet together.

        If you're interested in learning about some of the history & details of the Mediterranean Diet, you might enjoy the following Catalyst episode & accompanying info from the ABC Health website;

        The Mediterranean Diet;
        http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/2389833.htm

        http://www.abc.net.au/health/thepulse/stories/2013/04/15/3737114.htm

        >> Reply

    -

    David

    Putting on a helmet or buckling up a seatbelt does not cost $40 to the patient and $10 to the taxpayer each month.
    As the NTT website states:
    Statins Given for 5 Years for Heart Disease Prevention (With Known Heart Disease)

    In Summary, for those who took the statin for 5 years:

    Benefits in Percentage

    96% saw no benefit
    1.2% were helped by being saved from death
    2.6% were helped by preventing a repeat heart attack
    0.8% were helped by preventing a stroke

    Harms in Percentage

    0.6% were harmed by developing diabetes**
    10% were harmed by muscle damage

    Statin Drugs Given for 5 Years for Heart Disease Prevention (Without Known Heart Disease)
    In Summary, for those who took the statin for 5 years:
    Benefits in Percentage

    98% saw no benefit
    0% were helped by being saved from death
    1.6% were helped by preventing a heart attack
    0.4% were helped by preventing a stroke

    Harms in Percentage

    1.5% were harmed by developing diabetes**
    10% were harmed by muscle damage


    >> Reply

      -

      Alan:
      Heart attacks and strokes cost individuals and the wider community a lot of money too. Balancing one against the other here is a complicated business, which some people devote their whole lives to. But it is worth noting that the PBAC and relevant government agencies have seen fit to allow the taxpayer to subsidize the cost of statins for people in higher-risk categories, presumably at least partly on the basis of an advantageous cost benefit trade-off.

      I don't have much of a quibble with the NNT benefit data you present. These figures are similar to ones I use to make statin decisions every day. However they are quite conservative, in terms of understating the probable benefits of statins. In the Jupiter trial of rosuvastatin (Crestor), involving almost 18,000 people who'd never had heart trouble, the mortality reduction from Crestor after 4 years was 20% (with heart attacks down over 40%, strokes down over 50%). There are other primary prevention trials with smaller benefits and in some cases no mortality benefit, and systematic reviews like that on which the NNT website is based have not usually shown a mortality benefit for primary prevention.

      But I have trouble accepting that all people who've never had a heart attack are different in some mysterious way, so that they're immune from the statin mortality benefits that everyone agrees apply to those who have already developed heart disease. Many of them look pretty far along the heart disease pathway to me. It seems illogical and discriminatory to deny those high-risk people the benefits of statins.

      In their listing of harms, as in their commentary, the authors of this NNT website reveal a lack of perspective, not to say bias. Are "muscle damage", whatever that is, and new-diagnosis diabetes really comparable with heart attack and stroke? We're not talking about insulin-dependence here. And in the Jupiter trial, 16% of people on Crestor reported muscle symptoms, compared with 15.4% in the placebo group. Myopathy occurred at the same rate in both (0.1%). Even if the rate at which statins caused muscle pains were as high as 10% (I'm not convinced it is, in sedentary people), this is a relatively trivial issue that disappears when you stop the medication. There may be a stronger argument for caution with statins in people in high-level training, since some recent studies have shown they may impair the exercise training response, but the meaning of this is a long way from being worked out.
      >> Reply

    -

    Look, you may be right and certainly seem to be enthusiastic at putting your point of view on statins.
    One thing that puzzles me about your 'straw man' argument is that there are well-documented side effects to statins, but I can't think of any significant side-effects to wearing a properly fitting seat belt or bike helmet!
    >> Reply

      -

      Greg: There is such a thing as taking an analogy too far. I used the seat belt / helmet analogy to illustrate the point that in any form of prevention, if the thing you're trying to prevent is very uncommon, a great many people will adopt or be forced to adopt the preventive measure for no benefit. Some people distort this "no benefit" logic to argue the measure is worthless. But it's not worthless for those in whom it has actually prevented something important.

      It's a separate issue, which each individual has to decide, as to whether the benefit is worth the costs. From the benefit side, what's important is a person's absolute risk improvement – rather than their relative risk, or the percentage by which statins, say, lower mortality and heart attacks. A great deal of the controversy here stems from one side arguing that statins are good because they lower mortality by 30%, and the other side (whether they realize it or not) arguing that because this 30% reduction may only amount to about 0.3% for you in absolute terms (if your annual risk of death from heart attack happens to be 1%), it's too trivial a benefit to justify the risks. But it's not trivial for everyone, and preventing 30% of the annual heart attack deaths could be considered a substantial achievement.

      >> Reply

-

It's All true. It's all a conn to sell Statins. This is why some months ago there was this media advertising push to sell this Drug as if it was something to be sold of a Supermarket shelf! They (the Statin makers Representative's) knew the Cat was going to be let out of the Bag. I took those Statins for years! It did NOT prevent me from getting a triple bypass. All it did was make me feel sick and feeling un healthy. I had side effects as long as my Arm. All I want to do is sue these Ba...rds for putting poison in to my Mouth and Body.
I obtained all this information on the Net from the U.S.A some years ago. The patterns on often serious reactions to this Drug where staggering and alarming. I complained to the A.M.A only to be shrugged off in being told that the benefit out weight the risks. It was obvious to me no one would listen to an Expert by Experience and to even consider that this detrimental issue is widely known in the U.S.A today. Why is it always taking so long to reach Australia?
There are no health benefits
>> Reply

-

Fantastic work!!!! Very clear and informative summary. Confirmed the conclusions I have come to in the last few years researching this topic since a doctor told me I was 'foolish' to refuse to take Lipitor. At the time I was 34 and had only slightly elevated cholesterol and low risk factors. My current doctor who emphasizes finding and treating the root causes of illness and treating with as little pharmaceutical intervention as possible assures me that she will avoid recommending I take a statin!
>> Reply

-

Congratulations Catalyst! I never thought that I'd see this being presented on National Television in my lifetime and I'm only 37!

This gives me hope that we can still make changes to the incorrect medical information that we have been criminally mislead with for years!

I LOVE you Catalyst for having the guts to take on the medical mafia!
>> Reply

-

Congratulations again Catalyst on an important program.
Dr Mercola (USA) has been warning us for years about the dangers of statin drugs.

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/07/20/the-truth-about-statin-drugs-revealed.aspx

That said, we also need to take a good look at ourselves! Most of us have long ago abdicated our health and wellness to our local GP, multinational pharmaceutical / chemical conglomerates and State & Federal Health Departments.
Weston A Price in his classic 1939 book "Nutritional & Physical Degeneration" gave us a rare insight into communities across 14 countries from the Swiss Alps to the Pacific islands and outback Australia. They maintained excellent health and minimal tooth decay. The secret - eating their indigenous foods. Once these communities were introduced to 'modern' foods such as white flour, sugar, refined vegetable oils and canned goods, their health deteriorated disastrously.
Weston A Price's captivating photos (before & after the introduction of "modern" foods and influences) demonstrate our true health potential better than any words can.

>> Reply

-

I'm glad someone has finally stood up against the uh-healthy link between doctors & drug companies. I had a heart event seven years ago and for a long period was on statins (before & after). Eventually my cholesterol was so low it could not be easily measured, but the doctors insisted I still keep taking statins.
At the end I could barely walk, my feet were agony and my knees were going the same way. My memory was a disaster, sex was not possible, and my healing processes had virtually stopped,(so cuts took months to repair). I stopped all pharmacy medication over three years ago and since that time have made a full recovery. I take a small Asprin and calcuim tablet daily and exercise regularly. I feel great. I believe my heart event was brought on by work stress and possibly inadequate dental hygiene, (a matter which the doctors failed to raise).
>> Reply

-

Greetings from Florida.
Extremely well done Dr. Demasi.
A couple of additional considerations: Since statins have been administered for some 25 years isn’t it time to look at the track record; the statistical data of the results of national programs?? The era of “studies” regarding this subject is meaningless since historical data is available. One only needs to access national registries and compile the data.
Has anyone done it? Yes. Finland. The data of statin users and non-users and the subsequent results are presented in Table 2 of a study called j. haukka et al that can be found here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21956915 To those that are interested please disregard the abstract in its entirety and examine the data. The abstract is the result of manipulation which is totally contrary to the raw data. One of the authors, Leo Niskanen, now the drug safety officer in Finland openly states in the study that he has received compensations from 14 drug companies. No more need be said about that. The fox is guarding the chicken coop. The real result of the national statin program? Statin users die almost 50% sooner and in greater numbers than non-users.
Biggest complaint re statins? Muscular aches and pains and tendon snaps. The heart is a muscle ….. then common sense dictates that statins affect the heart muscle in the same way as they affect all other muscles. Could this be the reason why statin users die sooner and in greater numbers than non users?
Cholesterol numbers. I challenge anyone to present historical data showing any kind of beneficial historical results of one having a cholesterol number of 4, 5, 6, 7 or anything else. C’mon statin advocates. Show your data.
My intention is not to comment on medical issues but just can’t help myself. In your part 1 at about minute 18 into the program you state that no one really knows the beginnings of build up in the arteries. May I suggest considering the “vasa vasorum” theory. To a commoner that seems to make most sense.
In the USA the NHLBI (National Heart Lung Blood Institute) has issues the guidelines (and cholesterol limits). The last version was issued some 10 years ago and a revision was underway until June 19, 2013. That’s when the NHLBI gave up and decided to “subcontract” the work to others. Dissention in the ranks? Did they finally see the light?
To all aussies I commend you for your businesslike comments both pro and con.

>> Reply

-

Best bit of scientific journalism I've seen in years. Suddenly, everyone is talking about heart health and the Pharmaceutical industry! Congratulations to Dr Demasi and thanks to the ABC for bringing an important issue to our attention with a story that was intelligent, mature, provocative and ethically balanced.
>> Reply

-

Most of this information has its genesis with Duane Gravelind... a NASA space doc who has written a number of books describing the side effects of statins and how they work:

http://www.spacedoc.com/

Very useful and interesting.
>> Reply

-

Standing ovation to those who have brought this subject up and out into the open! We agree that the drugs are unsafe, unneccessary and its more about the money in their already bulging wallets rather than caring for their patients and innocent family members. Shame on those who dont care whose lives they destroy and kill. We have 3 family members who have gone off of this drug before hearing this on TV thanks to internet information. My dad (80)was suffering severely with hands being numb to the point of becoming disabled. They are almost back to normal now since going off of the drug. Doctors didnt know what was wrong with him! He does now. He is a Type 2 diabetic now also but is feeling better every week. He also has a large cancer growth on his pulmonary artery. My mum (73)has been deteriotorating over the last couple of years with memory loss, joint pain, etc and she is improving also. My husband spent the day in bed after changing medications - almost killed him taking a stronger one. Also had a fall in the night. He is improving also now, less toilet trips, memory improving, no joint pain etc etc. Thank you so very much to those doctors who are honest to share the side effects of drugs. Many lives are being shattered because of some arrogant greedy medics. Most people trust their doctor. Can we?? We pray for truth and life.
>> Reply

-

I for one found that the program was excellent and I think most people missed the message that it gave and that is there is no substitute for diet and exercise you cannot get it in a pill doesn't matter what stage in life you are at
>> Reply

-

Well done Maryanne this would have taken many months of work to make.
My main comment is a question
Do the common supermarket brands of Cholesterol reducing margarine type spreads contain Statins?
If they dont what is their effective ingredient and what is the research behind it?

>> Reply

-

I am in my late 40's and have had elevated cholesterol levels indicated by blood tests. I was advised to take statins but have decided not to due to the possible muscle effects. As well as effecting your main muscles in your body it can also attack the muscles in your heart. If left unchecked for long enough this can lead to permanent damage. This is supposed to happen to only one in 10 000 people. So how come in my small town of 200 people I already now of one individual to whom this has happened? I would rather try diet and exercise than the pill thanks all the same. A very good report.
>> Reply

-

The Statin issue is a huge cover-up to disguise the fact that there are very limited benefits and considerable side effects that are deliberately downplayed, all in the quest for massive profits on a drug that really has little going for it. The pattern of deceit is that which is to be expected from habitual liars covering the truth. They know they are going to be in big trouble if and when the scam/string of lies gets uncovered. We all know the pattern-a lie to support a lie to support a lie. The excuses and far fetched scenarios eventually get you suspicious until one day something twigs-some inconsistency perhaps and the whole thing is revealed as being lies from start to finish-hardly a grain of truth in the whole affair.The more respectable the liar makes themselves out to be(they spend a lot of time making themselves look big, eg big name promoters) the longer the scam takes to be uncovered and the greater the consequences.No tactic is off limits- intimidation, character assassination(baseless ones are the best-have to go over everything the person being denigrated ever said to prove the accusations as bogus, but the mud still sticks),sackings for not agreeing etc.

The eyes do not see what the mind does not know.
>> Reply

-

Did you watch the program? The overall tone was alarmist and sensationalistic IMHO. I think a better way of handling it would to have a Q&A type discussion panel. The truth is out there, but to paint it as some conspiracy is a little extreme. I may strongly recommend that you continue taking a statin, because I am a believer, or I am actually worried you might have a heart attack or stroke, if you stop. But that doesn't mean I am getting kickbacks from manufacturers if the medicines.

The data about statins draws parallels to biphosphonates, and has been available for several years now.

They are both very good at producing measureable chemical improvements (lowers cholesterol and improves bone mineral density), but they are not so good at improving patient-relevant outcomes-heart attacks, strokes; broken bones)

The best available data shows that for people who have pre-existing heart disease or already had a stroke, by taking a cholesterol tablet for 5 years there's 1% chance it will prevent them from dying or having another stroke, and 3% chance it will prevent them from having a heart attack.

As a person who has no heart disease but high cholesterol, if by taking a cholesterol tablet for 5 years, there's a 2% chance it will prevent me from having a heart attack, I might take it.

Or I might not take the tablet, and take my chances.

Our tolerance of risk is very individual, and I think it should be a shared decision making process. The problem is that people want Zero risk. Is it safe or is it not, Doc? Will it work or will it not, Doc?
But it's not as black and white as that.

The problem is if I spoke to my Dr, (s)he might not be aware of this data. So I think the program, at the least, brings this to the surface. This is data that we (community, health care providers) need to know.
>> Reply

-

Congratulations on another remarkable program, Dr Demasi and Catalyst. Until now Australia has been quiet and obedient when it comes to our medical profession and the drugs they prescribe. Doctors in Australia are highly trusted, but we now see that they have been confused and misled by drug companies about the safety and effectiveness of their products.
Defenders of the drug companies claim we have to put up with the status quo because of the high cost of developing drugs. Nonsense! We are already footing the bill. We are paying the salaries of the drug researchers, the drug reps, the drug lawyers. It is all included in the cost of our prescriptions and other drugs, and in our taxes going into the PBS, vaccines and such. We are the ones making the huge payouts in compensation for side effects.
The evidence cannot be denied, but it will be, by our top doctors. So how can we make sure that this state of affairs gets changed forever so we can again trust our doctors?

>> Reply

-

Thank you for your story, we have just been through this with my mother. She was put on these medication as a preventive, she did not have high cholesterol but is a diabetic and asthmatic. Over the past 12 months she has experienced dramatic loss of muscle strength and memory loss. She kept going back to her doctor ( who prescribed the medication) and was told there was nothing wrong, she just had to do more exercise. One night she had a bad fall (after a few minor falls) and was hospitalised and they reviewed her medication, and could understand why she was on this medication and has taken her off it (along with other medication that had been superseded ) and she spent 3 months in physical rehab to try and get some strength back. During this time her driving license was canceled as the doc deemed her unfit to drive. Almost 6 months since she stopped the cholesterol preventive she is going strength to strength. She has gone from being heavily reliant on her walk to now only using it out of the house. She is now back to preparing and cooking her own meals and hanging out the washing. Earlier this year we were looking at nursing homes and now we a confidant she will be able to stay in her house for years to come, infact we are planning a holiday with her for next year.
I am so angry she has had to go through this, a doctor she trusted has done this to her
>> Reply

-

I was taking a statin and was so low on energy which has been building up for months and months, I was falling asleep at 8.30 at night, plus other issues raised. This maybe a big statement, here goes:- at least here in Australia we are not caught in the chemical companies like they are in America, who are stopping their Public Health system, I would think the Government would want a good look at this issue due to all the medicine that is used in the PBS process that might not even be needed. Anyway I have stopped taking my statin and I will not take it again, I am looking forward to the return to good health. Personally I am using the 5:2 eating schedule which I am sure works because I have lost 10k in 8 months and still going down. I will look into the Mediterranean diet for the other days of the week.
>> Reply

-

Thank you, Dr. Demasi. Some years ago, my G.P. prescribed Lipitor for raised cholesterol levels. Foolishly, without doing any research on Statins, I swallowed those tablets. After 4 weeks, I could barely walk - the muscles in my legs were so sore; I was miserably depressed; had lost interest in everything, and my wrists had a severe 'burning' sensation. The Lipitor went into the bin and I wrote a letter to the G.P. listing all problems which had arisen while I was taking that poison. When I next saw my G.P. I inquired about the letter and my reaction to Lipitor. His comments: "Yes, yes, very common, very common!"
>> Reply

-

Thank you so much for providing such an informative story. I have Type 2 Diabetes, diet-controlled and my Doctor insisted I start on Lipitor last year, to further lower my cholesterol which was within the "normal" range but needed to be lower only because I have Diabetes. I had an allergic reaction so I insisted on trying a herbal remedy which did help a little but not enough. So I moved to the country this year and with a new doctor came the same insistence that I start a statin - this time Crestor. I started taking this a few months ago & I've gradually felt dreadful. Initially I had awful bloating then I became tired, hungry, (I've put on weight after losing weight at the beginning of the year), no energy and my muscles are aching all over & my brain just doesn't seem to work as well as normal. I went back to my GP and had more pathology & my Diabetes is now out of whack & my doctor wants to put me on medication for that & suggests no more nightshift. I'm sure it is the Crestor so I've stopped it a few weeks ago & am slowly feeling a little better. I will have a 3 month break from nights & see how I go before I consider any further medication for diabetes or cholesterol. Your program has certainly helped to inform me further of what I suspected. Thank you.
>> Reply

-

Would just like to say that there are many lifestyle and diet measures that help to reduce peoples cholesterol to those at high risk of a cardiac event. As a dietitian, I don't really agree with using medication to treat disease, however, I would never tell my patients to stop taking their medication, rather talk to their doctor about it and over time slowly reduce the use until their doctor gives them the ok to stop. Fact is, many patients are on multiple medications, not just one.
>> Reply

-

Could it be that for some people there may be some therapeutic effect from taking statins because of the placebo effect?
>> Reply

-

The popularity of statins amongst cardiologists has to do with the "double-blind" controlled trials involving these drugs.Multiple trials have shown a decrease in heart attacks with a dose effect such that stronger doses show up to a 50 per cent drop.Because of the high cost of these trials they are usually stopped when there is a positive result with heart attacks with the presumption that logically this would lead on to mortality benefits.The exercise trials while suggestive are impossible to blind ie. it's hard to be sure that the exercise group are not intrinsically more healthy rather than it's the exercise that's improving their longevity. The Mediterranean diet trials suffer from similar problems with the recent Spanish trial possibly having a positive result due to olive oil in one arm and nuts in the other active arm of this trial. It's clearly important to avoid bias by commercial interests and I feel the lipid experts who run these trials try very hard to give balanced views on this complicated subject. Certainly those in the field are convinced that lipid deposits beneath the blood vessel linings are indeed causative in heart attacks and the originator of the inflammatory response rather than being an innocent bystander.
>> Reply

-

Over 10 years ago my Husband ceased his statin medication due to side affects. At this same time we went on a very low carbohydrate diet. Our new GP saying whatever your doing keep it up! We both lost weight, I have maintained my loss of 30kg.
We took control of our own health as the advise and recommendations given to us were not working (as indeed it it not for a major part of the population). We also went gluten free as we found we also had a problem with this protein, so many side affects as if it were a drug! I wrote to Peter Clifton at the CSIRO suggesting it was a key part in the obesity problem "wheat impairs the absorption of other nutrients" his reply was "gluten is a thin persons problem", and how wrong he is, my children also benefited.
A test we also have when having a 2 yearly checkup is for Homocystiene levels, from our own research this is far more important than cholesterol tests and if levels are elevated can be rectified by taking supplements......no money in that one for the drug companies! My husband and myself are now in our late 50's, drug free and excellent health.
>> Reply

-

Great programs - check out Big Pharma (and Bad Science) by Ben Goldacre
>> Reply

-

The problem in this debate is twofold. First, patients seem all too willing to doubt the interests of drug companies and their influence over medicine. Secondly, doctors imagine that they can trust the drug companies and the public an private processes and institutions claiming to operate in the interests of their patients. Neither is correct. However, if neither is correct, how does one judge the value of taking statins? If there is doubt about their value, surely the logic thing to do is not to take them unless there is a crisis in which they will indeed help.
>> Reply

-

Whatever happened to the once great Catalyst?
It used to be compulsory viewing. Informative. Compelling. Accessible.
This latest program is yet more evidence that it has been taken over by scientific fringe dwellers. We had the awful program on sugar earlier this year. Now this. We may as well watch tabloid TV.
What's next ... challenging climate science?
Actually, it is hard to care any more. I have turned off and won't be returning.
>> Reply

-

Great thanks for the program.
I have been taking statins for some 5 years and the muscle aches and joint pains were shrugged off by almost all GPs ( oh you are getting old that is the cause, or arthritis etc etc).

After talking with friends who reported the same problems with the same medications we stopped taking them for a while to discover that all the pain was not due to old age - BUT statins.
Our cholesterol levels have not changed much either.

So much for the advice by the Heart Foundation "see your GPs ".
>> Reply

-

I am really impressed with your show. It took courage to produce and run thus show in the face of the inevitable criticisms especially from those who either have vested interests or are convinced by the "lower cholesterol is best" delusion that has been instituted.
>> Reply

-

Well done from Holland to every1 Down Under for exposing this huge scandal!
Greetings to my Dutch reletives in Australia and New Zealand ;-)
>> Reply

-

Please do not think that GPs are drug pushers . As a practising GP of more than 40 yrs , I prescribe statins to patients who had failed to lower their cholesterol by lifestyle changes first. I select the appropiate patients and monitor their side effects .
If some of your readers do not want the statins it will be a saving for the Federal budget .
>> Reply

    -

    As a practising GP of almost 40 years, [possibly a little bit younger, but a whole lot more cynical], I refuse to believe that you are not swayed by the guidelines issued by the great and good who tell us what to do. There is always the implied but nonetheless very real threat that if we don't do what these faceless people say, we will be punished. The message that comes from them is that all the information from the drug companies is completely free from all misrepresentation, and so many of my GP colleagues seem to believe it. The fact that these same companies get fined millions of dollars frequently for fraudulent marketing is ignored, and what we are told by the drug reps [? peddlers] is correct.
    >> Reply

-

To all the critics of this week’s and last week’s program I have some questions.
1. What scientific evidence do you have that elevated cholesterol is the cause of heart disease rather than the effect
2. What went wrong with Cerivastatin? For this who don’t know , 52 people died prematurely and 385 people ended up in hospital from taking Cerivastatin.
3. Coconut oil that is 92% saturated fat features prominently in the diet people living Malaysia, Indonesia and many pacific island nations. People should be dying from heart disease in a disproportionate way but that does not appear to be the case. How do you explain this?

>> Reply

-

Thanks so much for this report. It's fantastic that the biased approach of pharmaceutical companies is being exposed. I would appreciate a similar report on antibiotics! I suspect a similar approach to the prescription of antibiotics by our medical establishment based on biassed research funded by the people who gain the most financially. As a mother of two young children, my visits to the doctor for our children almost inevitably result in a prescription for antibiotics regardless of what's going on for my children! It's a bit of a joke between my mother friends because it happens to all of us!!! Well done!!! Good health still comes back to basic elements - unprocessed whole food diet and exercise! But pharma companies would never like us to take up that prescription - no money in it for them!!!
>> Reply

-

Thank you for the Catalyst shows on dietary fat and statin treatment. These are very important projects and I hope you continue to follow-up these ideas in greater detail.
Eric C. Westman, MD MHS
Duke University Medical Center
Durham, North Carolina USA
>> Reply

-

Firstly, congratulations on a thought provoking programme!

Next, a question. If cholesterol isn't the bad guy (per episode 1), what should be the maximum in the normal/healthy range?

Now some of my own experience :

When I started on statins, my cholesterol dropped markedly. However, I developed colic-like symptoms and was changed to a different one, then had such muscle weakness that I could hardly stand. Back to the first statin, at a significantly lower dose.

Now I discover from this programme that type 2 diabetes and vitamin D deficiency can be side-effects. Guess what? Yep, that's me!

It never occurred to me before this programme to research this stuff, so none of this was due to "suggestion", as suggested by Dr Sullivan.

>> Reply

-

In a recent study in Norway 52,087 men and women aged 20-74 years were monitored over a 10-year period (1,2). Total blood cholesterol levels (TC) were measured and details of any deaths which occurred were recorded. The results are shown in Table 1. As expected most deaths occur after the age of 60 years. Although the optimum TC level for men aged 60-69 is in TC range 5.0 to 5.9 mmol/L , for those over 70 the lowest death rate is in the higher TC level of 6.0 to 6.9 mmol/L. For women it is very clear that the death rate for the over 60s decreases as the TC increases. For this age range it is evident that the highest death rates are for those with a TC level which is below 5.9 mmol/L . The relatively high death rates for those aged 60+ years at low TC values should also be noted.
TABLE 1 ALL-CAUSE MORTALITY RATES (PER 1000 PERSON-YEARS) AND TC LEVELS FOR AGE RANGES INTHE NORWEGIAN STUDY
TC LEVELS, mmol/L(mg/100ml)
MEN, ages <5.0(<194) 5.0-5.9(194-228) 6.0-6.9(232-267) >7.0(>270)
20-29 1.10 0.38 0.30 0.00
30-39 0.80 0.57 0.72 0.47
40-49 2.22 1.38 2.27 3.37
50-59 4.54 4.93 6.22 5.74
60-69 20.31 16.20 17.37 18.47
70-74 49.18 40.37 37.93 41.25

Women, ages
20-29 0.35 0.30 0.24 0.60
30-39 0.31 0.43 0.82 0.69
40-49 0.89 1.85 1.69 1.12
50-59 2.95 3.59 3.53 3.79
60-69 22.31 10.32 10.47 9.51
69-74 31.46 22.50 21.58 19.23
The authors commented as follows:
‘’If our findings are generalizable, clinical and public health recommendations regarding the ‘dangers’ of cholesterol should be revised. This is especially true for women, for whom moderately elevated cholesterol (by current standards) may prove to be not only harmless but beneficial.’’
They went on to conclude:
‘’Our results contradict the guidelines’ well-established demarcation line (5 mmol /L) between ‘good’ and ‘too high’ levels of cholesterol. They also contradict the popularized idea of a positive, linear relationship between cholesterol and fatal disease. Guideline-based advice regarding CVD prevention may thus be outdated and misleading, particularly regarding many women who have cholesterol levels in the range of 5–7 mmol/Litre and are currently encouraged to take better care of their health’’(1).
It must be emphasised that that this does not demonstrate “cause and effect”. There is no convincing evidence that reducing cholesterol will actually reduce the incidence of heart disease. What is absolutely vital is that in those who are over 60 years old, which is when about 90% of deaths occur, a high TC is associated with greater life expectancy, especially in women. So why on earth would anyone wish to lower their TC?
1. H Petursson et al (2012). Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 18 (1) pp 159-168
2. H Petursson et al(2012). Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 18 (1) pp 170-171
Further details at http://vernerwheelock.com/?p=105

>> Reply

-

"...Statins are useless for 95 per cent of those taking them, while exposing all to the hazard of serious side-effects. Hence my ever-growing file of letters from those who regrettably have had to find this out for themselves, illustrated by this all-too-typical tale from Roger Andrews of Hertfordshire, first prescribed statins after an operation for an aortic aneurism (that he had cleverly diagnosed himself).

Over the past few years Mr Andrews had become increasingly decrepit - what can one expect at 74? - with pain and stiffness in the legs and burning sensations in the hands so bad that when flying to his son's wedding in Hawaii he needed walking sticks and a wheelchair at the transfer stops. However, he forgot to pack his statins, and felt so much better after his three-week holiday that when he got home he decided to continue the inadvertent "experiment" of not taking them. Since October most if not all of his crippling side-effects have gone. Several friends can tell a similar story, and they have friends too.

The take-home message is that statins are only of value in those with a strong family history of heart disease or men with a history of heart attacks. For everyone else they are best avoided as they seriously interfere with the functioning of the nerve cells, affecting mental function, and muscles. This is all wittily explained in a recent book by a Cheshire family doctor, Malcolm Kendrick, The Great Cholesterol Con (John Blake Publishing, 9.99). There are, I suspect, many out there, like Mr Andrews, wrongly attributing their decrepitude to Anno Domini, when the real culprits are statins."

Dr James Le Fanu (a G.P.) writing in The Telegraph (U.K.), 18 March 2007. Link:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1545868/If-you-want-to-feel-younger-forget-your-statins.html

I could add anecdotes about my wife, my father and two friends whose quality of life improved markedly after stopping statins.


>> Reply

-

It’s about time the medical profession was held to account for its blind acceptance of a theory on cholesterol based on bad science. Well done to Catalyst and Dr Maryanne Demasi for a well researched and relevant program. Just think how much our impoverished health system could benefit if those millions of dollars spent on unnecessary statins could be channelled into our hospital system. Bravo ABC
>> Reply

-

Thank you Catalyst for being brave enough to speak up against corrupt practices in Pharmaceutical industries. We need independent studies into drugs. Remember Vioxx 60,000 people died but not one Big Pharma Executive went to jail. The fine was irrelevant - a small price to pay for the massive profits and they actually knew about the bad side effects and covered it up. The problem with mainstream media is not what they tell us but what they don't tell us. We have to go to non mainstream media to find truth. No wonder mainstream media is losing out. I have become a fan of Maryanne Demasi.
>> Reply

-

As a Physiotherapist and Practitioner of Nutritional Medicine, I applaud Catalyst for illuminating the cholesterol and statin debate. I have seen in clinical practice fit, healthy individuals who incidentally exhibit high cholesterol. Similarly, morbidly obese, depressed, sedentary, fast-food junkies can exhibit low cholesterol. From a Physiological and Biochemical point of view - cholesterol is an essential component of all cell membranes, and is manufactured in the body. Common sense would suggest 'blocking' the pathway of this essential body building block would have far reaching implications. All too often I have had patients presenting with diffuse muscular and neuro-muscular symptoms coincident with Statin use. If Medical Practitioners and patients genuinely want to improve their health and longevity they need to decrease their visceral fat through exercise, healthy eating (yes, the Mediterranean diet) and manage their stress levels. Processed and highly manufactured foods, trans-fats and soaring sugar intake (and consequent fluctuating blood sugar levels) all promote inflammation and are far more detrimental to vascular and general health than the much maligned Cholesterol
>> Reply

-

I was given lipitor for high cholesterol. I didnt read the info in the pkt of course who does?.I am normally very healthy dont even catch colds.after two months i could hardly walk up the stairs and when trying to turn over in bed my hips hurt so much they felt like they were broken.my husband told me i was crying out in my sleep every night.I went for a ten day holiday and forgot to take my pills with me..when i arrived home i suddenly realised that i didnt have pain anymore so have never taken them since. my husband takes them but his doctor makes him have a liver test every 3 months..WHY would he need that if these pills were good for you???
>> Reply

-

Last night's edition of Catalyst, Heart of the Matter, was a bit like Alan Jones doing a piece on climate change and interviewing only climate change sceptics in the hope of persuading us all that we have nothing to worry about. In my 40 years as a journalist I don't think I have seen such an unbalanced, unprofessional and irresponsible piece of reporting as I did in Catalyst. The data supporting the claim that statin drugs reduce the risk of heart disease is huge and yet there was no attempt to present that side of the story. Where were the experts on that side of the fence - people like Australia's own Associate Professor Leon Simons who is a world renowned authority on the subject. The reporter seemed to take what she hoped would be a controversial and therefore engaging position, and to then prove herself right. No reporter is qualified to take a position on a subject as complex as this. At the end of the day, it was an outrageous and dangerous piece of journalism.
>> Reply

-

Congratulations on creating debate on the subject especially in patients who are at low risk. My husband who is 41 and is low risk (according to the cardiovascular risk assessment on the Heart Foundation website) was recently prescribed statins to lower his marginally high cholesterol levels. He has no other risk factors and the GP didn't even take his blood pressure or stress the importance of diet and exercise to improve his cardiovascular health. The message he got was popping a pill was the easiest solution. It should not have even been prescribed according to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme without trialing lifestyle factors first. I am a medical researcher and understand how to interpret the scientific literature and I am appalled at how much focus there is on lowering cholesterol in targeting cardiovascular disease. Medication certainly has its place but we need to be careful to use it wisely and weigh the benefit with the cost.
>> Reply

-

It's disgusting what pharmaceutical companies are doing and this isn't even the half of it!

There are some good documentaries out there for those who want to hear more

>> Reply

-

I didn't think that this programme came anywhere near to the quality of the first. I have been taking statins for 12 years withour any severe side effects...however, I have 4 stents in my heart after an 'event' which was not a heart attack some time ago and had been on them for some time then.I will certainly discuss this programme with my GP next week and seek his opinion but I think I am one of the 'risk' patients that benefit from these medications. As for the inteviewer's attitude and opinions of the pharma companies, two things to consider here. Before damning them, check if your super fund and thus you, benefit from their profits, and secondly, where would we be withour their research and new drugs? I know for certain that my wife would have died from breast cancer years ago and I am grateful (even after 42 years of marriage!) that she is still around. I believe there is an old saying that goes along the lines of 'People in glass houses....etc.'
>> Reply

-

First thank you for the programme. I am glad that it was aired (in many sense of the word). Just thought that I should share my experience with your viewers.
I suffered from angina five years ago and the cardiologist found narrowing of a heart artery. Operations followed. Due to my history of high cholesterol, the doctors were convinced that it had a big role in my heart conditions. I was prescribed Crestor to 'control ' and prevent the narrowing of other arteries.
Having some science background, i did my own reviews on cardiovascular diseases, I was not convinced that cholesterol was the culprit. However, I was under pressure from medics and family to take it. Fortunately, I do not suffer the severe side effects as some other users, such as Edward in the programme. Nevertheless I suffered weakened muscles, longer recoveries for damaged muscle, vitamin D deficiency and reduced sexual activities. When I raised my concerns to a GP, he rebuked me severely to a point of ridiculed as a layman talking over a 'doctor'. Despite it all, I cut back my dose to half. Over the months to follow, I saw marked improvements in muscular conditions and physical performance.
Whether I will stop the medication and look for alternative methods for better cardio health is personal choice. Sad to see the medical professions brought over by pharmas and putting $ sign above patients' interest.

>> Reply

    -

    David there is no commercial return for doctors prescribing statins in Australia. I sounds like lowering your statin dose has helped, and I am sorry to hear about the way you were treated by your doctor, but make no mistake LDL cholesterol is the biggest contributor to atherosclerotic heart disease, more than cigarettes even. If you can't communicate with your doctor, maybe that's where the problems lies. Find a good professional that you can talk too. But don't rely on the ABC for medical information, it says so in their disclaimer. It's about the only thing they were honest about.
    >> Reply

    -

    the catalyst story didn't mention two important things - coq10 and vitamin c. I hope you have found out about them.
    http://jeffreydachmd.com/heart-disease-vitamin-c-and-linus-pauling2/
    >> Reply

-

There is another cause of high cholesterol -- hypothyroidism, undiagnosed, or diagnosed but undertreated. This was shown decades ago by Dr Broda O Barnes but has been totally ignored.

Some books, suitable for ordinary readers, that demolish the cholesterol hypothesis are
"The Cholesterol Myths" (Ravnskov, 2000)
"Fat and Cholesterol are GOOD for You" (Ravnskov, 2009)
"Ignore the Awkward" (Ravnskov,2010)
"The Great Cholesterol Con" (Colpo, 2006)
"The Great Cholesterol Con" [another one] (Kendrick, 2007)
"Cholesterol and the French Paradox" (Cooper, 2006)
"Saturated Fat May Save your Life" (Fife, 1999)
"The Great Cholesterol Myths" (Bowden and Sinatra,2012)

An amazing book on statins is "How Statin Drugs Really Lower Your Cholesterol and Kill You One Cell at a Time" (Yoseph, 2012. There is also "The Statin Damage Crisis" (Graveline and Kendrick), and Graveline's "Lipitor, Thief of Memory".

Some of these books might be in your local library. You can read about them on Amazon.

Uffe Ravnskov started a group called The International Network of Cholesterol Sceptics (THINCS)which has a website full of information on this matter by scientists, doctors and academics. (www.thincs.org)

There are also many books on DIET for health and weight loss, that advocate saturated fat consumption and give reasons.

We can now all find out for ourselves what is going on in the medical and pharmaceutical world.
>> Reply

    -

    Absolutely correct! I have read much of this information. In particular Rvanskov research revealing so much of the conn Artists.
    >> Reply

-

Catalyst did not clearly outline the importance of secondary prevention (the clear mortality benefit - reduction in death ) from statins in many thousands of Australians who suffer heart attacks every year.
The small potential increase in a 'diagnosis' of diabetes (a diagnosis doesnt kill you) compared to the very real risk of death with a heart attack was not made clear: these outcomes are NOT equal.

Further more this Catalyst report was an example of biased and emotive journalism; the use of 'dark' music behind any scene where pharmaceutical companies were discussed, the fact that Maryanne Demasi was filmed actively nodding to Dr Golomb or Dr Curtis but squinting her eyes to Dr Sullivan or Grenfell, the use of emotive language by Dr Golomb "scientific fraud... organised crime" is inappropriate and unsubstantiated.

The message that widespread use of statins in well patients ('primary prevention') may well be over-used is possibly true - I regularly stop statins in well patients who are not at high risk. If their risk is unclear, I will perform a Coronary Calcium Scan to see if they have asymptomatic disease; if so, then they will derive benefit from treatment. Medications should be used to treat those who will gain the most benefit; this balance has possibly been incorrect in the past, but we have the technology to non-invasively scan and detect disease BEFORE it causes a heart attack or stroke.

Catalyst did not represent this in a fair and unbiased manner, and doing so it risks damaging the confidence of the public in their relationship with their doctors. This is a very serious matter; people should discuss openly with their doctors, and if necessary with a specialist Cardiologist with expertise in cholesterol and risk-management, before taking any decisions about medications and their health.
>> Reply

    -

    Pfizer or Roche couldn't have said it any better. Seriously, I am curious what nnt and nnh average value have you calculated for persons only with high cholesterol and no evidence of heart disease taking a statin???
    >> Reply

    -

    Sorry but my family have lived through the effects of these medications on my mother, since she has stopped taking them she hasn't looked back. I don't need anymore evidence then that. Patients should be made aware of the risks of these medications, and doctors should no be brought by drug companies.
    >> Reply

    -

    No, what Catalyst did, it presented the facts which have been circulating for quite a while.

    The medical profession does not promote nutrition, in fact doctors are not taught nutrition. The medical profession does not look at the qualitative areas which is a more holistic approach.

    My doctor told me I would die if I didn't take a Statin. I watched 4 family members die. There all took Statins. Two from cancer and two from heart attacks. Three of them smoked, I don't. Two of them were heavy drinkers, I rarely drink.

    Cholesterol protects the body. Each and every person has different genetic makeup. There is no one size fits all.

    When medical science can provide un biased research then we will listen.

    Doctors need to stop reaching for the prescription and start teaching good health after they learn it first. Cayenne pepper will clear the arteries.

    Risk management is not telling a patient they will die.

    We are capable of doing research. It is not difficult to read statistics for those of us who have studied at university level.


    >> Reply

    -

    I agree completely. One sided journalism looking for ratings. I beleive the drug company`s agenda is probably more honest than this reporter`s agenda.
    >> Reply

    -

    I have no Family history 58 yrs {adopted] my Total chol. 6.0
    T.G. .4
    HDL [protective] 1.92
    LDL [atherogenic] 3.81
    Total/HDL ratio 3.1
    Perfect health except above LDL level.Is a chest Xray usefull to identify problems in the arteries?
    >> Reply

    -

    What "risks damaging the confidence of the public in their relationship with their doctors" is the doctor on the show who claims that patients are imagining or inventing the adverse effects from statins. Catalyst didn't make him say that. Any doctor who thinks like that needs to be broken down to vet, so his patient's won't be capable of bothering him with imaginary side effects.
    Overuse of statins = prescribing them soley on the basis of cholesterol counts in healthy people. This is the rationale for statin prescribing that the show rightly criticized. This is statins being used as recommended.
    If you know a better way to use them, this does not contradict the show's message, that they are being prescribed wrongly.
    >> Reply

      -

      George it's television, they can make things look however they want. It's the same medium that gave you Dr Who and Star Trek and it has about the same amount of scientific credibility. Ignore the packaging, listen to the facts and you won't find too many of them on the ABC. It's all about the ratings and there's nothing like a good conspiracy theory to arouse the interest. It's like the ABC version of Downton Abbey, full of intrigue and evil characters but based entirely on a fiction.
      >> Reply

-

I know past Catalyst programs have always been very pro-climate change, but like Maryanne's excellent program looking at "vested interests" persuading well-respected doctors to over precribe statins for cholesterol, I believe with equally in-depth research, Maryanne might find vested interests are persuading well-respected scientists to over prescribe "carbon pricing".

My reference source: British Sunday Telegraph - Christopher Booker's book: "The Real Global Warming Disaster" - 'Is our obsession with climate change turning out to be the most costly scientific blunder in history?'

At least skim-read it Maryanne!
>> Reply

-

Well done Catalyst for daring to go there. Some may say this was a biased piece, but I must ask the question, why do we need to hear the balancing viewpoint? We've been hearing it for over thirty years. Finally we got to see the viewpoint - rarely witnessed by the mainstream - of a building minority of medical professionals that are (rightfully) questioning the dogma surrounding heart disease.
As Schopenhauer said:
"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."
Get ready for the ridicule and violent opposition Catalyst!
>> Reply

    -

    The narrative has been one-sided for so long that shaking the apple-cart was apparently necessary.

    Sometimes one must use of polarization to bring social awareness and undo an ongoing and out-of-control social wrong.
    >> Reply

    -

    Problem is mate we're already at the self-evident stage. The reason you've been hearing about it for 30 years is we've already gone through the other 2 stages a long time ago. And you know, our current paradigms or dogmas as you call them seem to be working. Mortality from heart disease has been falling for over 20 years in the west.
    Think of it like this; if you were designing a plane for the first time and when you try it out the plane crashes & burns. Then you'd have to admit that your reasoning must have been faulty and you'd need to think again. However if the plane soars into the air, then you'd be justified in thinking that your understanding of the principles of flight was sound. It would stop you improving on your models, but the process would be an evolutionary one, building upon previous successes.
    Our experience of statin therapy has been like the soaring plane. Heart disease was soaring in the west it seemed to be strongly correlated with serum LDL levels. There was a suspicion the LDL cholesterol was a causative factor, but we had no proof for sure because we had limited ways of affecting it. Then along came statins, derived originally from red yeast rice which had been observed to lower LDL cholesterol effectively. Sure enough rates of heart disease started to decline throughout the western world, wherever statins were introduced. Since then our ideas have been evolving and we're getting better & better results. No of course at anytime we should be open to new ideas, but we'd really like to see then working better than the old ones before we change anything. For example, if someone came along & said, you don't need wings on that plane for it to fly, you might be a little suspicious that the person may be talking with a fork tongue. It's a bit like that with LDL cholesterol. Lowering LDL cholesterol with statin therapy has saved countless lives and as been as successful as putting wings on aeroplanes. It really is that self-evident.
    >> Reply

      -

      I disagree with your analogy. The laws of physics do a fairly good job of explaining how an airfoil (plane's wing) can generate lift and allow a plane to fly. There has been no solid refutation of the basic premise of aerodynamics in the scientific literature. The precise mechanism of heart disease, however, is still poorly understood by the medical community, and the lipid hypothesis has many studies with findings that refute it, suggesting that it could be a null hypothesis.

      Also, you state that heart disease rates have been dropping since the introduction of statins in the western world, which I also disagree with. An Australian Bureau of Statistics Report titled "Mortality and Morbidity: Cardiovascular disease: 20th century trends" states that, "While death rates have fallen, the prevalence of cardiovascular disease has increased, with the proportion of people living with cardiovascular disease rising from 8% to 21% between 1977-78 and 1995". Incidentally, Lovastatin was discovered in 1978 and introduced shortly after.

      I believe what you meant to say was that CHD mortality rates have been decreasing since statins were introduced, but I think that it is bad science to draw a conclusion that statins are the reason for this downward trend when there are many other risk factors for CHD that you are not allowing for (stress, smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, increased survival rates due to improved medical treatments etc.).

      You also discuss in your post, as if it is self evident, that the LDL lowering effects of statin drugs are the reason for their efficacy, completely overlooking the fact that statins are generally considered an "unknown mechanism of action" drug. A paper published by the Auckland City Hospital Cardiology Department in 2009, titled "Predicting benefit from statins by C-reactive protein, LDL-cholesterol or absolute cardiovascular risk" states that, "targeting statin treatment based on LDL-cholesterol alone will not provide an optimal risk reduction for many individuals." Also, a paper published by the Institute of Environmental Medicine in Switzerland (2007), titled "Atherosclerosis, cholesterol, nutrition, and statins-a critical review" states that, "Evidently, the beneficial effects of statins in atherosclerosis are not mainly due to its cholesterol lowering effect, rather than to its "pleiotropic effects"".

      A better analogy would be to say that I go fishing, hook a dirty old sock to my line, cast it out and catch some fish. I conclude that the fish love the taste of the cotton, completely ignoring the fact that they may love my toe jam in the sock, the colour of the socks, or the fact that I cast the sock into a school of fish that would have struck anything present at the time. You see, I don't clearly understand why the fish like the sock, just as medicine doesn't cl
      >> Reply

        -

        Thanks Clint, you're making my points for me. Yes the prevalence of heart disease has increased yet mortality has fallen by 40% since 1991. So something extraordinary must be happening. While rates of obesity and diabetes have increased substantially, caloric intake and junk food has increased - all contributing to increased prevalence of atherosclerotic disease, deaths from heart disease have reduced considerably for the first time in history. So we must be doing something right, don't you think?
        And while complexity in biological systems are governed by non-linear dynamics which are innately more challenging than (say) Newtonian principles, neither are we in the dark ages. In fact life expectancy has more than doubled in the last century, not a bad achievement.
        In terms of cause and effect, many of the fundamentals are well understood. In addition Bayesian principles can be applied in biological systems to determine 'causality', that is the likelihood that A causes B. I totally agree that statins have pleiotropic effects - for example they affect gene expression which is also very important. But the improvement in outcome is strongly correlated with LDL reduction and 'causality' is high.
        The 1st statin listed on the PBS in Australia was Simvastatin in 1991. Between discovery and commercial application rigorous examination is demanded to ensure safety and to confirm efficacy. Remember, we're all paying for these drugs though our taxes so if you're still convinced of your cause, take it up with your MP. Why should we all be paying for something that doesn't work?
        >> Reply

        -

        I do agree with you Dave that we're doing something right with regard to decreasing mortality rates, but I'm still not sure that the correlation you point to between statin use and heart disease mortality is absolute. There are too many confounding variables at play to put my mind at ease. For example, there have been significant advances in medical intervention of cardiovascular disease since 1990 (approx. date of statin introduction), like Bare Metal Stent Revascularisation (in use since 1995) and the growth of the employment of coronary angioplasty during the late 80s and early 90s. Also, the correlation between statin use and reduced CHD mortality isn't as strong in all countries. A recent trial in Sweden (type 21609438 into the Pubmed search engine for the abstract) concluded that increased statin use showed no corresponding decrease in CHD mortality. Does this prove that statins are ineffective? No. It just puts doubt into my mind as to their efficacy in the absence of other risk factor reductions. I think further independent research is warranted.

        Regarding our respective takes on the role of LDL cholesterol in heart disease, I guess it all boils down to our interpretation of the available data. My understanding of causation is, if A and B are correlated, A caused B or B causes A or they share a latent common cause. I tend to think that the correlation between LDL and heart disease suggests that there may be a latent common cause (inflammation perhaps?) because evidence can be found where people having low LDL still have heart disease (see one of my posts below citing some studies to support).

        As for this discussion, I think we have to ultimately agree to disagree. You seem to be happy with the way current treatment works and don’t see a need to reinvent the wheel or throw the baby out with the bathwater. That is a valid viewpoint shared by many other people on this forum. I, on the other hand, think that statins are overprescribed to low risk persons; the current science supporting statin therapy exhibits a strong funding bias and more independent research is warranted ; and a better understanding of the mechanisms of heart disease could potentially improve medical treatment and outcomes. After all, it still is Australia's biggest killer.

        >> Reply

-

This was an unbalanced piece of television journalism with minimal science and heavy on unsubstantiated opinion. Cholesterol is not the disease, atherosclerosis is, to say that statins are not effective in reducing morbidity and mortality in patients with significant atherosclerosis is beyond ludicrous. Treatment of patients without atherosclerosis is very different but would a viewer of this program understand that, I doubt it. Statins as any medication, supplement, vitamin etc even exercise carries a risk and weighing up risk and benefit and economic issues helps us come to a conclusion as to the best treatment. The discourse on clinical trials being biased by pharmaceutical companies is slanderous in 2013, and hard working independent medical researchers have a right to feel offended. For those interested look at the CETP inhibitor story in th last 10 years.
>> Reply

    -

    Excellent, that ABC brought a start for (Health/Cholesterol/Statins)dialog on national TV.
    It's something that has had my interest for years.
    For decades the 'common' people were told that cholesterol had to be low/lowered to stay healthy. How low is low and what is high? Who made up which level is safe and when/where? Hypercholesterolemia is actually an invented disease, a 'problem' that emerged when health professionals learned how to measure cholesterol levels in the blood. Give it a number like 200 and anyone above that number 'needs' medication. If we don't make enough profit... lets adjust it down to 180.. That was made a fact, with multi multi billion food-, pharma- and medical companies jumping in for a treat. This is fact too.
    To me it is ludricrous that medical doctors give Statins to patients without having atherosclerosis or underlying disease. Someone with even the slightest raise in cholesterol level gets Statins to 'prevent'... to prevent what? If cholesterol plays a big role in repairing damaged arteries, then why give patients Statins to prevent them from healing?
    Isn't it better to focus on how those diseases develop/arise and find some answers? One of a well known side effect of Statins is muscle weakness.. guess what's the biggest muscle in our body.. the HEART! I am afraid, too many experienced MD's do not listen to their patients. The more the 'common' people learn about their ailments and prescriptions/medications, the more MD's HAVE to listen.
    >> Reply

    -

    I am just a layman, but I thought the program was very clear about the point that studies show a small statistical improvement with statins for people with existing heart problems, but no statistical improvement in mortality for non-at-risk people. If things this program is talking about is so unsubstantiated why are other purported MDs and cardiologists in this comments section alone, coming out in support of the thesis of this program? (I know it's easy to be an MD in the comments section, but that would also apply to you). I find it mind boggling that you think accusing clinical trials by pharma companies of bias is "scandalous". Consider these facts: 1) No Transparency: Primary data from trials conducted by companies is not made available to the public or even reviewers, even when conclusions from these trials are used as the basis for drug approval. 2) No impartiality: The vast majority of the panel of experts in the US who are tasked with the responsibility of approving drugs and setting guidelines (like lowering recommended cholesterol levels) have direct financial ties with pharma companies (and all these approvals and guidelines pretty much propagate to the rest of the world). 3) Wrong Motive: The incentives for the conduct of research is no longer for "the benefit of mankind" (as was the case when research was publicly funded), but to cater to the profits of the companies which sponsor the research.

    These are all FACTS. Even IF, in an alternate universe, the pharma companies all behaved in the most honest and altruistic way without need for oversight, you have to agree that this is pretty much the worst foundation on which to base good science.
    >> Reply

      -

      Mr Layman do your own research. Go to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and look at the recorded mortality rates from heart disease since the introduction of statins in 1990. What you'll see is a 40% reduction in deaths from heart attack over the last 20 years or so. This at a time when obesity & diabetes rates are soaring, people are taking less exercise than ever and consuming more junk food than ever before. It's not a small statistical improvement it's massive. It's the first time in over a century that deaths from heart attack have been in decline. Get the facts and stop watching television because it has been conclusively proven that television is indeed incredibly bad for your health.
      >> Reply

    -

    And patients like my mum who have suffered the side effects of this medication for the past 4 years, but has shown amazing improvement in the past 3 months since changing doctors and stopping these drugs, should be outraged that their health is gambled for possible financial gain on the doctors behalf.
    >> Reply

    -

    In regards to your comment made >> The discourse on clinical trials being biased by pharmaceutical companies is slanderous in 2013, and hard working independent medical researchers have a right to feel offended.<< You are not getting the BIG Picture! Many Researchers are being paid by these pharmaceutical companies. If they do not go along with the pharmaceutical outcomes intended then the funding $$$ are revoked. One research Company is know in having not gone along on moral standings and consciouns. Needless to guess. Yes! Their funding from the pharmaceutical company was withdrawn.
    >> Reply

    -

    The notion in 2013 that the funding source for studies doesn't influence the design, implementation, analysis and conclusion of studies is beyond naive. It is not just in the pharmaceutical sector but there is a mountain of evidence industry funded science is far more likely to produce industry desired outcomes. And unfortunately, this situation is only getting worse.
    Well done catalyst for daring to take on big pharma and the orthodoxies of the medical community.

    >> Reply

    -

    Views very obviously set in stone. It is very obvious that the suggestion that the drug companies being biased is anything but slanderous. I am also a very experienced MD, [actually Mb, ChB], and if you think that the drug companies are in business for any other reason than to make money, then you are sorely mistaken. There is absolutely nothing altruistic in their activities. Any decisions taken are purely on a financial basis. Since the rule changes in 2005, requiring all trial results to be published, whether good or bad for the drug companies, it would not surprise me in the slightest if the drugs are developed first and the researchers are advised of the required results and instructed to design the trial to reflect the desired findings. After all he who pays the piper calls the tune.
    >> Reply

-

What is now clear is that the conclusions from Ancel Key's "7 Countries Study" were non-scientific, that is, they were not those that the total data set actually indicated. Keys selected those countries, of which Australia was but one, that best supported his hypothesis. This is non-scientific.
Thus these conclusions are wrong in relation to the actual data & further studies have confirmed this truth.
But by 1950 a false link was established (the Keys findings) & then taught as medical law.
When Statin drugs were developed in the 1990's a captive market existed & could be exploited & billions made in profits all with the belief that medical good was being done. As to what the drug companies knew or do know..well this we do not know as the data is convert!
Yet Doctors thought & were told that they were & are assisting their patients.
Today many younger doctors now doubt the Key's findings & scientifically so..as the actual hard data do not support the use of statins for the uses/results claimed.
More over statins have many dangerous side effects.
My advice..do your own deep research.
Visit your doctor with a set of probing but polite questions & see what answers you get. This is essential if you are ON statins.
In the mean time..eat a Mediterranean type diet (avoid all junk & processed foods, avoid high sugar foods), exercise on a regular basis.
Start smelling the flowers rather than worrying about earning the big bucks (de-stress your lifestyle & spent quality time with your loved ones).
Reclaim your health & your life from well meaning but medical "fools" & economic "con-men".

>> Reply

    -

    OK. With Everything presented you still insist the World is flat and not round.
    >> Reply

-

All those interested in this topic should search and download "The Oiling of America" by Sally Fallon absolutely fascinating and for the absolute clinching statement is on the Lipitor packet where it states that Lipitor has "..not been shown to prevent heart disease or heart attacks".
Why on earth would you take it when it destroys CO Q10 in your system ...amazing!
>> Reply

-

I was given statins years ago by ny GOP for high cholesterol levels. Blood tests showed my levels came down a bit. After a while I began to feel terrible and as a sporting person most of my life I read that I was experiencing a whole range of adverse symptoms now attributed to statins. My GP literally refused to discuss how I felt and tried to double my dosage. To say I was disappointed with his dismissal of my concern for my own health was an understatement. I threw the statins in the bin and have never touched them again. I embarked on a personal diet and exercise regime to get my good health back. My levels went down and I started to feel good again. Now I read that there is no causal link between cholesterol and heart attacks. To say I have lost faith in the drug industry and the mainstream medical industry is also a massive understatement. How about a little bit of scientific evidence and honest scrutiny from the medical industry in general on this topic? Refreshing to see highlighted what has been kept quiet for many decades as some people simply lined their pockets at the expense of public health. I now take a much more considered and informed approach to any medical advice. I am an active partner in my own health, not surrendering it to possibly outdated and compromised advice.
>> Reply

    -

    As it stands the pharma industry is untenable. What they don't realize is that they're business model is so unsustainable that it cannot but be debunked by the extreme rate of disruptive innovation that is looking to personalize healthcare with hard facts.
    >> Reply

    -

    Len there is an absolute causal link between LDL cholesterol and heart attacks and the evidence is as strong as for (say) evolution, though many people refute this also. In fact in medicine this is one of the most certain associations, along with the link with cigarettes, high blood pressure, saturated fats, lack of exercise, and diabetes. The out of date and compromised advise is the stuff your seeing on Catalyst. Len, there are many ways to skin a cat, go back to your GP and tell him how you feel. If he still doesn't respond, find a doctor you feel comfortable with, it's a personal thing. The media is only interested in ratings and they will say and do anything that attracts viewers. Conspiracy theories are particularly popular, but seriously, don't trust the ABC.
    >> Reply

      -

      Go to Pubmed and type the following document numbers into the search engine at the top of the page:

      18615352

      18609060

      12507667

      8117583

      14729007

      18615354

      2144195

      That's Seven (7) pieces of scientific literature disputing the premise that LDL cholesterol causes heart disease.


      20071648

      20089734

      16467234

      9635993

      6877119

      15563444

      22208554

      That's Seven (7) pieces of scientific literature disputing the premise that saturated fat is a significant cause of heart disease.

      If the causal link between LDL cholesterol, saturated fat and heart attacks was so absolute, why can a layperson like me dig up that much counterevidence in less than 20 minutes?
      >> Reply

        -

        Yep you've tumbled us Clint, we doctors are getting kickbacks from the fruit & veg industry to support plants and rubbish meat and dairy foods. I'm actually being sponsored by John West as an advocate for Fish Oils and Omega 3 fatty acids. I've also got interests in the Almond & Brazil nut industry so I've been peddling these things to my patients at the expense of their health and well being so I get rich.

        Clint you've taken the scales off my eyes & I can see the light. From now on I'm gonna do the right thing. I'm gonna encourage my patients to feel comfortable with their Big Macs, rip into that ice cream, barbecue those snags and shovel in the saturated fats. The pizzas are on me boys, it's mozzarella heaven for all. And if the weight goes up, it can't do any harm right? LDL, smell de hell, cholesterol is my friend. Yes the world would be so much better if doctors were more honest and stopped making us eat such bad food.
        >> Reply

        -

        Dave, no one - particularly me - is suggesting people hoe into the Big Macs, ice cream or pizzas. For starters, those foods aren't junk just because of their saturated fat content. They are pretty high in refined carbohydrates as well (amongst other things, omega 6 ratio in the grain fed meat for one), but that's a whole other argument. The drama is, for over 30 years people have been given an overwhelming anti-fat message by both the medical establishment and the media to the point that people will freak out if they see you put a dab of butter on your broccoli or cook up some sweet potato in coconut oil. This message has been based on a hypothesis that has been falsified consistently in the scientific literature. Why is it still being perpetrated as undisputed fact?
        Don't take that as meaning I'm condoning the consumption of saturated fat ad-libitum. I think we both agree that it's not a good idea to recommend people start spooning lard down their throats without fear of some other health-related repercussions. I just don't think saturated fat is the demon that it is made out to be. For the record, I would recommend people focus on getting in plenty of fresh vegetables, fish, grass-fed meat (for the favourable omega3:6 ratio amongst other things), fruit, nuts and grass-fed organic dairy, while limiting refined carbohydrates (including excessive gluten containing grains, particularly for people with genetic history of autoimmune conditions) and meat and dairy from conventionally raised animals.
        Now that I've made that clear, let's get back to your statement to Len, in which you told him that the evidence was absolute regarding LDL cholesterol, saturated fat and heart disease. I just wanted to illustrate to Len that in light of the available data, a person could reasonably assume that neither premise is "absolute", rather, they are both hypotheses that are still open for testing and modification. As I said in a response above, I think we have to agree to disagree on our respective takes on the data with respect to causation. You think A causes B, whereas I think there is another latent common cause at play and further investigation into alternate hypotheses is warranted. As you stated above, heart disease mortality is dropping, but it is still our nation's biggest killer. Surely we can aim to improve on that.

        >> Reply

-

I have no idea whether this or the preceding program on cholesterol have any validity. It does remind me of a previous episode with a strong anti-vaccination message. That was a more than a decade ago but Catalyst presenters seem no more inclined to be at least a little more objective and scientific in their approach.


>> Reply

    -

    Yes, Diana, both programs have validity and are consistent with the peer-reviewed literature and with the facts of biochemistry an evolution.
    They are also consistent with the views of many conservative, sceptical medical professionals who never bought the lipid hypothesis and waited patiently for the evidence.
    The truth may be more nuanced; if eating carbohydrate elevates LDL, that is Bad cholesterol. If eating fat elevates LDL, that is not Bad Cholesterol.
    If you have Bad Cholesterol, it is better to stop eating the thing that makes it bad, rather than take a drug so you can keep consuming industrial foods or sweets.
    It is unfortunate that conspiracy theorists who oppose vaccines (which are not perfect but are useful) also oppose the general (ab)use of statins, but even whackos have to be right some of the time, and this is one of those times.
    >> Reply

-

A few years ago my elderly father became very confused very quickly. I discussed with my mother and after investigating the possible causes I discovered he had recently been prescribed Crestor by his GP. I researched it on the web and One of the serious side effects of Crestor is cognitive impairment. We questioned his GP as he has never had high cholesterol and the GP said it was a preventative measure. He was on the highest dose. We stopped it immediately and his cognition improved quickly. It is criminal that this could have had a tragic permanent impact on my father's health and wellbeing had we not investigated and intervened. Thank you ABC for this honest programme.
>> Reply

-

Just goes to show how dangerous it is to try to present a complicated scientific and methodological discussion as a half hour entertainment. It came across as quite dishonest, what with snappy quotes and fast edits. Too much cherry picking of commentators. Maybe there is cause for concern, but I for one as a high risk 66 yo will keep taking my statin until I hear something much more convincing

>> Reply

    -

    Me too, Jen.
    >> Reply

    -

    Why take statins when you just have to eat healthy and exercise regularly? Drug companies pay doctor's to prescribe their drugs, they care more about money than your health.
    >> Reply

-

It would now seem that the pharmaceutical industry will find it harder to stun them with science.

I wonder how long the nutritional supplement industry will be allowed to continue to baffle them with bullsh#t?
>> Reply

    -

    I love the comment. The bullsh#t market makes billions out of unsubstantiated lies and has no scrutiny like the FDA or the TGA.
    >> Reply

-

The annoying aspect is that if you don't comply you risk being labelled as uncooperative and treatment can be neglected in the way of options that are available. Well done, more discussion to come on this topic no doubt.
>> Reply

-

Congratulations to Dr Demasi and Catalyst for having the courage to present this compelling story. Unfortunately the marketing of disease and selling of toxic medications is not restricted to statins and cardiovascular disease.
>> Reply

-

great coverage of corruption in big pharma!
how-ever its goes much deeper! it involves governments
whom are also influenced not by just big pharma, but also
big bussiness! this all started in the usa in 1930's, when they outlawed cannabis! which would of provided fuel, medicine, food, ect, ect! "no" the governments and big bussiness have decided to sell us short and cause the death of many and even destroy the earth, all in the name of corruption and greed! look into duponts dark history! look into the truth about cannabis!
how-ever I bet if you go to deep -you will be shut down!
all the best!
dave.
>> Reply

    -

    You are right on the BUTTON!
    >> Reply

-

Although not involved in medical research I am acquainted with research methodology in natural sciences (Materials technology at Chalmers in Sweden) and have been stunned by the lack of a scientific approach in the medical research but have found it understandable since most of this research has been funded by pharmaceutic companies as you point out in your great revealing program.

My interest in this subject started 14 years ago after surviving a very serious heart attack. I then refused a by-pass operation and all medications since I am a believer in cause and went for the cause and thus removed all sweets from my diet and all margarin with its infamous transfats and also introduced regular exercise. Here was a logic well documented in research literature.

I am still not by-passed but the cardiologists 'hate' me. "We are not interested in what you have been up to during 14 years! We consider what you have done as an almost a criminal activity." That recent talk, though, didn't increase my esteem for cardiologists to use an understatement.

Thank you for your courage and your excellent program!
>> Reply

-

Dear Catalyst,I was impressed beyond measure to see your programme last night. I am a G.P.and I have been aware of these problems with Statins for some years. One of my own patients was confined to a wheel-chair for 6 months, as a side-effect, and had a slow recovery. The only sane direction for Medicine is away from these drugs towards lifestyle-change,sound nutrition and holistic health-care. Thank-You to all involved for shining a light of reason.
>> Reply

    -

    Isn't the current therapeutic guidelines based on diet and lifestyle modifications for 6 weeks before starting a statin (unless a cardiac event as occurred)??? People know what they can do to reduce risk of a heart attack, but people would prefer a pill and complain when "Big Pharma" make billions..with a b!
    >> Reply

-

Thank you so much for this expose. I was part of Prof Golomb's statin survey (UCSD) a few years back because of serious side effects I experienced and was both relieved and startled to discover the extent of the side effects being experienced by statin users. I began researching and found more and more researchers and scientists adding to the picture, the same picture Catalyst gave us in a broad overview. I'm sure it will be quite some time before there is a general understanding of the faulty theory of cholesterol as the 'cause' of heart disease, but this has been a solid start. When I asked my doctor if he'd be prepared to take a drug when only one person in 100 would benefit,something denoted by the NNT number in small print on Lipitor packaging at that time, he became silent. Neither did he want to discuss the evidence for cholesterol as cause of heart disease. I have another GP now.
>> Reply

-

thank goodness this stuff is coming out, I have been warning about statins on my website for some time and the amount of females that I see that are on statins is shocking.
>> Reply

    -

    The most effective way to improve outcomes in diabetes is to reduce cholesterol through statin therapy. It's even more effective than lowering blood glucose, similar to reducing blood pressure. I don't think I'll go to your website pty ltd
    >> Reply

-

Great program Maryanne, thank you for bringing this issue into the mainstream.
>> Reply

Moderator: Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately we cannot publish your website address as this could be seen as advertising and goes against ABC editorial guidelines.

-

This is not news to me but I'm sure it will help people understand that popping pills is not the answer to a longer happier life.
The big pharmaceutical companies make the Tobacco industry look like a Kindergarten!!
>> Reply

-

A competent High School Science student would have little trouble in identifying the flaws in arguments presented in this week's edition of Catalyst.
Early in the programme Rita Redberg says that only one or two people in a hundred will benefit from taking a statin. She says that what people don't understand is that means the other 98 will get no benefit at all. It's not going to reduce their chance of dying. However, later on Earnest Curtis, another critic of statins, says the studies that have been done have generally been just a few years in duration. He says the long-term side effects may not show up for many years.
They can't have it both ways. How can we know for certain that there are no long term benefits but at the same time not know if there are long term side effects. This is silly stuff and the inconsistency is never addressed.
And yet it still there will be some in the wider community who will stop taking a statin and potentially increase their chance of dying as a result of cardiovascular disease. Sure there are some who will now have a discussion with their doctor regarding the risks and benefits of statins and that's a good thing. But on balance the ABC may have done considerable harm in running this week's edition of Catalyst. Not good at all.

>> Reply

-

The program has done patients a huge disservice by emphasising the adverse effects and minimising the benefits. Yes adverse effects do occur and all doctors are aware of them but all patients with heart disease, stroke and diabetes benefit from taking statins. The main area of controversy is the use in people without heart disease but with risk factors. The most recent Cochrane review done by people with no vested interest in drug companies showed a 14% reduction in all cause mortality (not zero as the program claimed) and a reduction in heart attacks of 27% and strokes of 22%. It is true that out of 100 people taking the statin only 2 will benefit in 5 years but this will increase the longer the statin is taken. The more risk factors you have the greater the likelihood of benefit. I am a passionate lifestyle advocate and emphasise diet and exercise in everybody but statins are still required. The program had the level of balance seen if 4 ant-vaccination advocates dominated the 30 minutes and allowed only 2 minutes for the adocates to put their case.
>> Reply

    -

    You have been misguided if you believe the study your refer to was a primary intervention study. In the abstract it clearly states <10% had had a CVD even in the past.
    It sounds insignificant until you realise that people who had CVD in the past are way way more likely to have it again in the future. Which makes me wonder, what percentage of the CVD events in this meta-analysis were actually secondary CVD events? Probably greater than 30%?

    Mixing secondary intervention patients into this 'primary intervention' study has 'doctored' the results to get a statistical significant figure. It is the 'Gerrymander' of medical science!

    If the statin industry believe they can identify primary intervention candidates who will likely benefit from statin treatment, then they need to use 100% primary intervention patients in their trial, and they must not exclude from their numbers, those who stay on the placebo/statin.

    >> Reply

      -

      Prospective control studies of statin therapy in primary prevention are totally impracticable. Average age of 1st MI in Australia is 67 and atherosclerosis is a lifetime disease. 50% of individuals who suffer MI experience a 2nd within 3 yrs. So a 5 year study can feasibly have enough power to generate meaningful data. You need to put an enormous number of people on statins for a huge number of years to get the same significance in primary prevention studies. Not only would it be a dubious exercise ethically, the cost and practicalities would be enormous.
      MI is simply the catastrophic endpoint in a disease (atherosclerosis) that has been proceeding in the arteries over many years. Whether someone with atherosclerosis has an event depends in part upon chance. The disease doesn't begin with MI, it usually ends with MI and there is abundant evidence that statins slow and even reverse that process. We can use surrogate markers such as cIMT to demonstrate regression.

      >> Reply

-

Well this program will cause enough alarm to make some people stop their medication. The reporting was somewhat unbalanced. I was not particularly convinced of the arguments which appeared to be facile and based on personal views of the interviewees and the reporter. Very much like the conspiracy theories that used to do the rounds.
>> Reply

    -

    But at least it has lots of discussion going! Airing these sorts of ideas is what the ABC was set up to do. Just look at the huge number of comments (mostly congratulatory!) in response to this program.
    >> Reply

-

Congratulations Catalyst and ABC - hopefully the commercial networks will pull their fingers out and provide exposure to this very important issue. The masses have been conned for too long.

A great example for our kids when we teach them to question authority and not take them on their word.
>> Reply

-

My thought is simple / big business and mainstream medicine making more money at the expense of our quality of life ! '

>> Reply

    -

    What?!?! Surely you're not suggesting that large pharmaceutical companies are not driven by an altruistic and benevolent attitude toward the beterment of our health!!!!!
    >> Reply

    -

    Where would we be without big business? Our food is supplied by big business, we can't trust our food chain, are you gonna stop eating? Your clothes are probably mainly made by teenage girls in an Asian sweat shop owned by Nike or some other company. Are you gonna start weaving your own clothes? The TV show you watched on thursday was seen on a corporation made TV and aired by a media corporation. We live, sleep and eat big business, our lives are dependent on what they produce, especially the drugs that protect us against infection, pain, cancer and heart attack. Let's go back to some natural nice time where big business didn't exist and we relied on our own resources. You'll find it aint so nice.
    >> Reply

-

Brave - congratulations.
Finally we see the emperor has no clothes.
>> Reply

    -

    Yes, the emperor is buck naked!!
    >> Reply

-

Nice story Maryanne. Always a pleasure to watch your stories. If there was way to make more money in medicine, I can see an incentive to both make a problem, create a cure for the problem, and have a patient that has a lifetime commitment to that regime. I see your story more as using the perfect vehicle (the ABC) to expose this example of that type of corruption.
>> Reply

-

Once again this "expose" is badly researched and presented. It's just a repeat of last weeks alarmist presentation without any mention of the importance of lipid profile studies at all. I notice that the ABC now have a disclaimer! Seek medical advice! Disappointed in ABC and Catalyst decline in quality programming.
>> Reply

    -

    It would be pointless to cite lipid profile studies when the basis of the argument presented here is that observations pertaining to fasting lipid levels such as LDL and HDL cholesterol and heart disease only point to a correlation and not a direct cause. To quote last week's segment, "Dr Sinatra says blaming cholesterol for causing plaques is like blaming firemen for causing fires, just because they're always at the scene."
    >> Reply

-

Congratulations Catalyst and Dr Demasi. That was a world class treatment of this topic. You managed to explain the origins of the scientific error, the implications of it and the reasons why it is being perpetuated. And it is on a topic that effects millions of Australians and/or their family members. Brilliantly done and highly recommended for everyone to watch, anywhere in the world that statins are prescribed.
>> Reply

-

This show was fabulous. Finally someone is exposing the pharmaceutical companies. I am so pleased these people spoke up. I know they are risking ridicule from others in their profession.
The same thing happens with the vaccine industry. Can we have Dr Maryanne Demasi do a story on the vaccine industry? The pros and cons. The side effects, in particular the HPV and MMR.
Great work.

>> Reply

-

Hi I have been taken off the statins because of the side effects and I have been on them over 15 yrs but in the last year my lfts have gone up to over 200 and when I went off them they went down then wa started on them again at 2 tablets a week only took them for a few weeks and then it went up again so the cardio has taken me off them with a liver blood test to be done every four weeks I have relatives with heart problems and I do have high cholesterol but trying to do it all by diet now.
>> Reply

    -

    If you read those books referred to above in comment 2 you will discover that high cholesterol is actually your body attempting to heal itself - your body is actually making the cholesterol to do this. You can help your body by cutting out margarines and other 'fake' foods and excluding sugar (and try the paleo diet - we were made for it).
    >> Reply

-

Simply study the vital role of cholesterol, coq10 etc. and it becomes obvious that supressing hmg coa reductase (statin action) is extremely toxic to all cell activity. Well done to ABC for exposing this huge scandal.
>> Reply

    -

    Exactly, why can't people see the big elephant in the room? How can knocking out a whole pathway of a cell's way of synthesizing a whole host of essential molecules (which has been probably required in our evolution) possibly be a good thing?


    >> Reply

-

Many thanks ABC and Catalyst for having the courage and scientific method to undertake this difficult story screened over the last 2 weeks on cholesterol.

Objectivity will always triumph in the end, or so I'd like to believe.

Please pass on my gratitude to all those involved in the making of this fine Catalyst program

RJR Melbourne
>> Reply

-

Good work Catalyst. It is about time people stand up and tell the truth about the pharmaceutical industry.

Many regard drug companies as a necessary evil, and while this may be true, the problem is essentially our existing capitalist system.

Capitalism is fantastic in theory, but it requires a monumental change in order to mitigate any future corruption that leads to the continued ill-health of our world.

There must be an underpinning of strict ethics that, if contravened, would result in harsh penalties. Ethical standards that ensure every single item produced on this planet will unequivocally help the human being, our society, and our environment. I do not know how, but I know it must be done.

We would have less war, poverty, famine and, to bring it back to context, less ill-health from the chronic degenerative inflammatory biological processes that plague our modern world (agents such as cigarettes, refined sugars - including high fructose corn syrup, and of course the high-heat extracted, free radical laden polyunsaturated fatty acid containing "cooking oils").
>> Reply

-

What a legend. Finally, a journalist with the courage to tell it like it is. I've been reading about this for years. Please, add Functional Medicine and GMOs to your "to do" list.
>> Reply

-

Congratulations on a great programme tonight. Everything in it needed to be said. I'm pleased to say that as a practicing physician and clinical pharmacologist I have only rarely prescribed statins (and then for specific vascular problems such as carotid atheroma) and reduced the dose or stopped them in dozens of patients. Their protean pharmacological effects deserve to be more recognised.
Good work
A Millar
>> Reply

    -

    Yay, a fellow doctor with some sense
    >> Reply

-

There is going to be a new description coming out soon, it is "cholesterol deniers", and anyone who challenges statins will be given this description.
>> Reply

-

Hi I had Ross River Virus which was severe, at 50 years of age I often looked like a 90 yr old needing to lift my legs to get into a car for example. During this time I found I had an irregular heart beat, investigation revealed plaque in one artery of my heart. A statin was prescribed even though my cholesterol was low (4) and for 2 years the Ross River symptoms, severe aches a swelling, continued. I eventually stopped the statin and after several months my "Ross River'' symptoms disappeared, after this I could exercise, my weight dropped and my overall health and sanity drastically increased. I am certain the statin drastically aggravated my symptoms for a long period of time. This definitely affected my physical health and could have caused depression.
>> Reply

-

Hi,
This program is a triumph!
My boss, a maths HOD retired unnecessarily because of mental confusion probably as result of statins. I gave them up myself because of joint pain which precluded me from running which I figured was better for me than the vague promises of lower cholesterol.
Roll on Catalyst - brilliant!
BB
>> Reply

-

I watched the Catalyst on statins (31/10/2013)..I have now been on Crestor since I had a heart attack in December 2010..I had a stent inserted. At that time I was told that to keep my cholesterol low, and minimise chances of a further attack I should take 20mg Crestor a day. I am 74 years old (75 in January) and I have had no further heart problems since then and have led a fairly active life...lots of travel overseas in particular.
I have the odd memory loss, but I read a lot and try to keep my brain active. The odd muscle pain I get I put down to ageing.
The question for me is...how can I tell if I am being negatively affected by statins? Is there a way of testing? Who can do that test? How can I tell when I forget something, or feel the odd muscle twinge whether its old age or statins?
>> Reply

    -

    Hi Ron,

    I take crestor too and rest assured it's an excellent drug that is well tolerated and giving you a real chance of avoiding another heart attack. Sounds like you're being treated pretty well Ron, so go & talk to your doctor who I am sure will be happy to answer your concerns. What ever you do, do not listen to the ABC for your medical advice. They placed a disclaimer both at the beginning and the end of the show not to rely on the program for medical advice. It's the only really valuable thing that they said, you can forget about the rest.
    >> Reply

-

Bravo! The truth is out about Statins. Ever wonder what has caused the rise in type 11 diabetes and Alzheimers?
>> Reply

    -

    The increase in elderly people due to decreased CV events thanks to statins!
    >> Reply

-

I am a retired doctor. I went to university and studied medicine. I also have an engineering degree. During my engineering course I was taught how to read a research paper critically. I was not taught this skill in medical school.
When I read the Framingham report, and the Seven Countries report I realised the advantage of my engineering training, and knew the case for statins was never viable, and that medical research was unreliable at best.
Catalyst has revealesd the tip of an iceberg. Well done.
>> Reply

    -

    Through my own experiences I can second that engineer's are taught to critically evaluate research and analyse statistics. As are people undertaking business-related degrees, which my wife can attest to.
    Ancel Keys' work, at best, only established a statistically significant linear correlation (r= 0.59 I believe from the original 22 countries studied, with r = 0.35) between fat intake and heart disease deaths. Correlation does not equal causation, however, and to this day the precise mechanism of heart disease is still poorly understood by the medical community.
    >> Reply

-

What I see here is a paranoid view with no scientific facts to back up a lot of hearsay and conjecture that ultimately will cost people their lives.

Reminds me of the flouride debate.

Congratulations on postulating a theory without any single scientific fact.
>> Reply

    -

    http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/heartofthematter/

    on the downloads section of this page you will find the 20 peer-reviewed pieces of literature that were used to form the supporting arguments for this segment.
    >> Reply

-

"Dr Maryanne Demasi
Until the science of clinical trials can break free from commercial interest, then decisions about our health rest in the hands of big business."

"In her testimony before the UK Public Accounts Committee in the earlier post [goldacre and godlee… ], Dr. Fiona Godlee editor in chief of the BMJ since 2005. says [@15:55]:

"Unless we can find a solution to the commercial incompetence problem, we have to recognize that the pharmaceutical industry has an irreducible conflict of interest in relation to the way it represents its drugs, in science and in marketing. And unless we can resolve this in a way that is more in the public interest and in patients’ interest, I would argue that drug companies should not be allowed to evaluate their own products."

Well said. Essential to say.

Rob Purssey
MBBS FRANZCP
old fashioned patient centred doctor.
>> Reply

-

GREAT PROGRAM, YET AGAIN.
I was prescribed statins when tests showed I had high cholesterol along with high blood pressure as a side effect of a (second) parathyroid tumour. After about a year I ceased taking the drug Lipitor because not only did I suffer constant joint and muscle pains and extreme tiredness, I could no longer climb stairs. Those symptoms were dismissed because I also suffer from chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia yet I was receiving very good physiotherapy during that time. We had to alter our house to adapt to my changed condition. Later, after a discussion with family members about others having similar side effects I ceased taking Lipitor and within a couple of months my tiredness was not as extreme, the specific type of pain subsided and I could again climb our stairs. A second drug, was prescribed but it had the same side effects. My Endocrinologist told me I should remain on statins for my long term health and it was for my GP to prescribe one that I should be able to take.
The third drug was Lipidil which I was assured would not cause any problems which I believed! Doctors rely on drug companies to be honest with them and patients rely on doctors to know about potential side effects of drugs. Instead my body reacted to that drug with my thigh muscles gradually tightening to the extent I eventually walked like a robot. Despite excellent physiotherapy my condition worsened and I became quite depressed until I finally realised that the condition had to be caused by that drug. I ceased taking it last Xmas and after six weeks I could feel the difference but recovery this time was extremely slow, about nine months to get rid of all the tightness. I take fewer analgesics than I did when taking statins, however, I have to continue taking a muscle relaxant and I still cannot go for a comfortable stroll. My Endocrinologist now agrees I must not take any statins. I’ve estimated that the financial cost for renovations and physiotherapy during the years on statins to be around eight thousand dollars but it is the emotional cost – to me and my family, I’ve lost a valuable five years of my life.
After Part 1 of Catalyst I thumbed through an old natural health handbook, printed in 1986 & 2001, which had exactly the same information about cholesterol, as the experts interviewed in the TV program. We have all been duped!

“Statin sufferer”

>> Reply

    -

    I too had a reaction to Lipitor, having taken it for approx. 2 years which resulted in severe muscle pain in thighs and buttocks, and severe indigestion. I could not even drink a glass of water without pain. Return visits to my GP where I discussed my symptoms it was decided they were not related to Lipitor. Other statins were taken as prescribed, all with the same side effects even when varying the dosage. Eventually I was referred to an Endocrinologist who tried to persuade me to continue with statins. After several visits with a gastroenterologist and feeling very unwell I researched these statins, phoned the gastroenterologist to tell him I felt I knew the answer to my symptoms. He advised me to return to my GP and together we decided they were not for me. All these years later I still suffer ongoing effects.
    >> Reply

-

Thank you for putting this view out in the open. Fighting against my doctors trying to put me on Statins for more than a decade because my cholesterol has been higher than 6.5 despite a low cholesterol diet.

Finally in 2010 with my cholesterol at 7.1 I agreed to give them a try and started taking 20mg of Simvastatin per day, which I was told was a low dose. At the time I was running about 8km each work day at lunchtime. Within one week I pulled both calf muscles, took a weeks rest then reverted to walking but my calf muscles didn't recover. By the end of the month I could barely walk at all. Also near the end of the month I had a stressful board meeting and in the middle of it, when I was being questioned, I suffered an inexplicable loss of the ability to speak for about one minute. When my speech recovered I felt like I was in instant depression and that a veil had descended over me dulling all emotions and sucking the fun out of life.

When I returned home that day I received the results of my end of month cholesterol test and it had reduced to 3.54.
I stopped taking statins that day but the feeling of dullness continued. Two weeks later, at 3:37 pm while sitting at my desk at work, the veil lifted and I felt normal again. My legs did not recover so quickly, I tried to run a few times over the next 6 months but each time pulled muscles again and stopped. I converted to a rowing machine and that seemed to be OK.

I am convinced that the leg pain and the brain malfunction were both due to either side effects of the statins or a result of the rapid reduction in cholesterol in my body, it seemed to me that my brain had had a short circuit as the insulating cholesterol has run out! About a year later I was convinced give statins another go on half the original dose - 10mg of Simvastatin - the leg pains returned within 2 weeks even though I wasn't running - I ceased and won't ever take it again. It took about 2 years before I felt that I could walk long distances again.

I walked the Overland Track in Tasmania earlier this year with no problems. It is now 3 years since I stopped taking the statins and I feel normal though I haven't returned to running.

>> Reply

-

Fantastic episode. Congratulations Maryanne. Well researched. Excellent links to the independent NNT website. Courageous investigative doco exposing another myth trotted out by pharmaceutical companies and unfortunately perpetuated by many of my naive/deluded medical colleagues. Government policy also needs to change to fund independent research so we as a society can make better decisions about what medications/therapies are worthy of taxpayer subsidy. To leave the evidence gathering to pharmaceutical companies is absurd. Highly recommend the books by Ben Goldacre on this topic.
>> Reply

-

I felt this was a rather unbalanced report. Statins are excellent drugs when used in the right people but I feel this report missed providing that message and a balanced view on the topic. I am a clinical pharmacist and fear that a report like this may result in patients who absolutely should be on these drugs will end up stopping them resulting in harm.

We know from well conducted clinical trials that everyone virtually gets a 30% relative risk reduction from having an MI or Stroke. However, if your baseline cardiovascular risk is low, this relative risk reduction translates into a very small absolute risk reduction. It therefore means that you need to have relatively high baseline CV risk before the benefit of the drug outweighs the potential harms but still people wil benefit from these medictions if the correct patients are selected (i.e. Those with high baseline CV risk). I would also comment that there is much more shonky evidence linking statins with memory loss than any of the studies criticised in this program. If also you look at the number of patients statin use may cause diabetes in, it is far less than the number of heart attacks and strokes and deaths you will prevent from using these drugs appropriately.

Statins do work when used in the right patients. While it is not fully understand how they work (likely separate to their cholesterol lowering as was mentioned in the program) they still prevent vascular events and reduce mortality to a significant extent in those with high CV risk. Before the prescription of any medications, the potential benefits vs potential harms should always be considered by the doctor and discussed where possible with the patient. All medications have side effects, it is just a matter of whether the benefit the drug is likely to provide outweighs the risk of potential harm from the known side effects. Statins are no different to any other medication, they are effective and have an important role when used sppropriately. I feel this program failed to convey this message and grandiose and unproven statements about some of the side effects (eg. Effect on cholesterol in the brain etc.) were quite simply put misleading.
>> Reply

    -

    I thought it made the point several times that for a small percentage of people they were beneficial, those who had already had heart disease and those with genetic conditions.
    >> Reply

    -

    The piece was not intended to be taken as medical advice. There is a caveat at the beginning and end that reinforces that fact. The piece aims to be thought-provoking by challenging the long-held notions held within - and outside of - the medical community regarding heart disease.
    >> Reply

    -

    AS you know high CV risk is multi causal.
    The program focussed on the supposed hard data link between cholesterol & cardiovascular events.
    This data link is circa 1950
    Statins were developed in the early 1990's. This is a separate issue
    You state that " Statins are excellent drugs when used in the right people "
    This leads to two issues;
    (1) Who actually are the right people? Those with high CV risk as assessed by what means? The 60 million plus worldwide currently on statins? All people over 40( as some have suggested)?
    (2) How can you know the exact "excellence" of these drugs when the complete data sets are held in secret by the owners of the patents? Have you seen all the data? If NO then your conclusion about "excellence" is NOT scientific.
    Personally I do not know the "truth " to this issue..but as one of the 60 million I intend to find out whether I have been given scientific treatment..I have both a health & economic stake in this... as do you.
    >> Reply

      -

      There is a massive body of work demonstrating the benefit of statin therapy and the value of LDL cholesterol lowering in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. There is no conspiracy and some of the greatest and most respected scientists in the last 25 years including Nobel prizewinners have been working in the field. Keep taking your statin unless your doctor tells you otherwise. Conspiracy theory are great for TV ratings but they do nothing to advance the scientific cause. It's naive in the extreme to believe that Catalyst have stumbled on a hornets nest. It's just TV, nothing more.
      >> Reply

-

Congratulations on a most excellent Catalyst tonight. Your research was convincing and compelling.

Regards
Graeme
>> Reply

-

The medical profession needs to think less about drugs and more about eating good food and exercising. Unfortunately Big Pharma has infiltrated primary care in Australia to such a large degree that the local pharmaceutical rep is now the suburban GP. Considering how many busy medical practices there are, obviously people still believe poor lifestyle choices can be fixed with a mix of magic pills.
>> Reply

-

'The views expressed in this episode of Catalyst are not intended as medical advice. Please consult with your doctor regarding your medications.'

How many more mixed messages can you fit in a TV show? Statins are bad, they sound suspiciously like Satan. Don't trust the drug companies and your doctor is probably being paid to prescribe. Cholesterol isn't important anyway, except for some people. Doctors know nothing & simply believe what they're told. They give out these Satan drugs like smarties and they're probably gonna do to terrible things to you. But whatever you do, listen to what they say.

You guys are absolute cowards. John Abramson suggested in your show corporations should be sued for giving misleading advice that might lead to harm. ABC catalyst has got to be at the top of that list.
>> Reply

    -

    "... that might lead to harm."

    Dave, how can public questions cause more harm than conspiracies of silence? I thought it was rather specious of the professor on a drug safety committee to advise a ban of this show. It suggested a fear of open transparency within the medical profession and pharmaceutical industries.

    It took a lot of inner strength for Maryanne Demasi to take on the big guns. The conversations this program has sparked is proof that her work is necessary.
    >> Reply

      -

      Hi Bruce, public questions are always welcome very important in any discovery process. There is no conspiracy Bruce, the data on statins and the benefit of LDL cholesterol lowering is well established and all the data is transparent & freely available to the public, you just need to know where to look.

      Professor Banks felt that Catalyst completely misrepresented the facts and that the majority of the information in the 1st episode was simply wrong. She felt that given how inaccurate and poorly researched the 1st episode was, it was unlikely that the 2nd episode would be any better (and she was proved right). Given heart disease is the biggest killer in or society, such a poorly researched and presented program could do significant harm to large numbers of individuals, by panicking them into stopping their medications or allowing them to believe it was appropriate to eat foods with large amounts of saturated fat.

      I totally agree with her point of view and that it would have been better to have had the Catalyst presenters meet with the scientific community to avail themselves of the existing & substantial body of data, in order that the follow up program more accurately portrayed the scientific evidence.

      The level of ignorance on the subject displayed in the first program was so appalling that it really should not have ever gone to air. We don't expect much from our television shows, but this was a shocker. It's also been well established, btw that television is bad for your health!
      >> Reply

-

I would like to see a government enquiry into the long term effects of statins.
>> Reply

    -

    Ross, the government pays for these drugs because they know they work and work well. The reality is that it would cost our economy billions without the subsidy for these drugs because the cost to the economy of heart disease is enormous. Statins are simply the cheapest option. Beyond that the devastation that heart attack causes on family, society and the individuals themselves is unquantifiable. Look at the ABS data on heart disease in Australia, its available on the web. You'll see that rates of heart disease were increasing relentlessly in Australia until around 1990. Since then we have seen a reversal of that trend and a continuing fall ever since. It coincides with the introduction of statin therapy in Australia, coupled with a decline in smoking rates in males. There's no need for a government enquiry, we all know the real facts.
    >> Reply

-

My own experience with statin drugs was very bad. The worst symptom was the lack of energy, may be related to the reduction in CoQ10 which is very important for your heart. Another issue was my abnormal liver tests. It took 6 months for my liver to come right after stopping the medication. I really believe the general public are being misled. Its all about the money for the drug companies.
>> Reply

-

Interesting Catalyst tonight, I am a 58 year old male and have been prescribed statins for many years and have had side effects to the point of suffering with muscle breakdown, which was proven by pathology tests. These symptoms were not in my mind as suggested by the Australian Assoc. Professor. I am still on a statin merry- go- round, but will be having discussions with my GP again after viewing Catalyst. Thank you.
>> Reply

-

Catalyst did not clearly outline the importance of secondary prevention (the clear mortality benefit - reduction in death ) from statins in many thousands of Australians who suffer heart attacks every year.
The small potential increase in a 'diagnosis' of diabetes (a diagnosis doesnt kill you) compared to the very real risk of death with a heart attack was not made clear: these outcomes are NOT equal.

Further more this Catalyst report was an example of biased and emotive journalism; the use of 'dark' music behind any scene where pharmaceutical companies were discussed, the fact that Maryanne Demasi was filmed actively nodding to Dr Golomb or Dr Curtis but squinting her eyes to Dr Sullivan or Grenfell, the use of emotive language by Dr Golomb "scientific fraud... organised crime" is inappropriate and unsubstantiated.

The message that widespread use of statins in well patients ('primary prevention') may well be over-used is possibly true - I regularly stop statins in well patients who are not at high risk. If their risk is unclear, I will perform a Coronary Calcium Scan to see if they have asymptomatic disease; if so, then they will derive benefit from treatment. Medications should be used to treat those who will gain the most benefit; this balance has possibly been incorrect in the past, but we have the technology to non-invasively scan and detect disease BEFORE it causes a heart attack or stroke.

Catalyst did not represent this in a fair and unbiased manner, and doing so it risks damaging the confidence of the public in their relationship with their doctors. This is a very serious matter; people should discuss openly with their doctors, and if necessary with a specialist Cardiologist with expertise in cholesterol and risk-management, before taking any decisions about medications and their health.
>> Reply

    -

    Recent reports in Medical Observer, {that well-known, high quality unbiased medical journal] said that doing a coronary artery calcium score is of little use. I am interested to know if one of your patients had a high lipid profile but a CACS of 0, would you still tell them to take a statin? Also would you arrange for them to have a LDL lipoprofile done to see if they had a pattern A or pattern B picture? There is significant evidence that those with a pattern A LDL profile have a significantly lower cardiovascular risk than those with pattern B
    >> Reply

-

So what is new. I read about the folly of lowering cholesterol in 70's in Nature and Health magazine
>> Reply

    -

    I guess 'what's new' is that the idea that cholesterol is bad has become so mainstream, and for all the wrong reasons (ie for big pharma profit), that people find it 'difficult' and 'controversial' if that mainstream hypothesis is shown to be fallacious.
    >> Reply

-

Great report! Thanks for showing both Parts 1 & 2 Heart Matters. I enjoyed both episodes. I also learned from this show that three drugs I am taking all cause Diabetes Type 2 which I have!
>> Reply

-

Well done ABC.
We are privileged to have such smart journalists who dont give in to bullying and describe the truth in detail for all to see.
Well done Maryanne.
>> Reply

-

Nothing more to said than Thank you Thank you for your work to bring this to our attention.
>> Reply

-

I watched both programs on cholesterol, a little sceptical at first but quite convinced tonight. Maryanne Demasi is to be applauded for her tenacity and strength in taking on a topic that cuts to the core of Big Industry Medicine. To prescribe long term medication to anyone who is low or non-risk is so irresponsible, especially when all they may need is a sensible diet and physical activity. Interfering unnecessarily with cholesterol's role in the brain is what worried me most.
>> Reply

    -

    Ray most doctors go to great lengths to ensure patients receive medications appropriately. The reality is that half of all men in Australia will have a heart attack and half of those will die. Those that survive are often severely disabled causing enormous stress to them and their families. Half the survivors will have another heart attack within 3 years. Heart disease costs the Australian economy around $25 billion dollars /year, more than any other illness. It's a social and financial disaster. We go to great lengths to try to protect our patients. We screen them every year and yes we test their cholesterol . We scan their arteries and perform stress tests where indicated. We follow the guidelines of the American Heart Association which were published in 2010. We encourage aggressive management of lifestyle behaviours, offer exercise programs and work with our patients to help improve their health. And if after all that we feel they will benefit from statin therapy, we will offer them the opportunity explaining the pro's and cons. I eat healthy food and keep fit. I am in my 50's, and I participate in triathlon, bike rides, running events and until recently played soccer. I love my life but I have a strong family history of heart disease. My LDL cholesterol is elevated despite all I do because genetic factors play a role, as they do in a large proportion of the population. I choose to take a statin because it is the best way for me to stay alive and enjoy the things I do. It makes no difference to my athletic performance, nor do they affect the marathon-runners, bike riders and triathletes that I compete with that also take statins, who are in the same boat. I choose life!
    >> Reply

-

This unfortunately is one of the most biased pieces I have seen on the ABC, presenting only an ovwhelmingly negative interpretation of selected scientific literature. Shame on the ABC and presenter for taking journalistic integrity back to ACA or Today Tonight standards.
>> Reply

    -

    In your view, Catalyst have spent approximately 60 minutes presenting a biased viewpoint to the public. In contrast, the health authorities, media and medical community have been presenting the public with an overwhelmingly biased interpretation of selected scientific literature for over 30 years. Does it make it right? I'm not sure, but I think sometimes the means justifies the ends, and if the end result is that people start talking about this and affecting change, then it is for the best.
    Sometimes you just have to rock the boat.
    >> Reply

-

Well done Dr Maryanne Demasi for a well researched and topical program. Catalyst continues its run as the best science journalism on TV. Can we please have more shows like this?
>> Reply

-

Congratulations on this story, it matches my personal experience. I was identified with a blockage in the retina caused by cholesterol resuling in partial blindness in the right eye. This was even though my blood cholesterol was low. I was subsequently prescribed Crestor and not made aware at the time of any possible side effects (there wasn't even an advice on contra indications slip in the pill box). After six days on the drug I started suffering severe muscle spasms and seizures that effectively paralysed me for short periods. Eventually my GP and I put two and two together and realised it might be a statin side effect. Three days after stopping the medication the seizures subsided and I switched to lipitor which seemed to have less significant side efects. Nonetheless subsequent tests after 12 months on Lipitor showed I had suffered kidney damage (blood in urine) and heart damage (abnormal heart rhythms) and apparent internal bleeding leading to low iron levels. I no longer take statins as they didn't seem to significantly reduce my cholesterol below my already low level, thankfully the kidney and heart damage done seems to be now slowly healing and my iron levels are coming back to normal. I have been shocked that such potentially dangerous drugs seem to be carelessly prescribed. My experience is for at least some people (such as myself) these are very toxic chemicals and should only be prescribed and taken with the utmost caution.


>> Reply

-

Another appalling load of tosh. Catalyst you've destroyed my faith in ABC to produce a good science show. For good unbiased information on health and medicines just go to the The Cochrane Library online. The Aust government pays so all Australians have access to this gold-standard of unbiased, evidence-based source of information. The URL is http://www.cochrane.org/search/site/statins for searches about statins. If you can't understand the heavy statistics look at the end of the review page for the Plain Language Summary. Note the report by Taylor etal this year states "All-cause mortality was reduced by statins (OR 0.86, 95% CI 0.79 to 0.94); as was combined fatal and non-fatal CVD RR 0.75 (95% CI 0.70 to 0.81), combined fatal and non-fatal CHD events RR 0.73 (95% CI 0.67 to 0.80) and combined fatal and non-fatal stroke (RR 0.78, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.89)." and "Taking statins did not increase the risk of serious adverse effects such as cancer."/ That is evidence-based advice. CATALYST why couldn't you look for far more creditable and reliable sources rather than serving up bull-manure to the public.
>> Reply

    -

    You obviously did not read the Cochrane caveat:
    "Selective reporting of outcomes, adverse events and inclusion of people with cardiovascular disease in many of the trials included in previous reviews of the role of statins in primary prevention make the evidence impossible to disentangle without individual patient data. Caution also needs to be taken regarding the fact that all but 1 of the trials had some form of pharmaceutical industry sponsorship. Overall, the populations sampled within this review were white, male and middle-aged. Therefore, caution needs to be taken regarding generalisability to older people who may be at greater risk of side effects, and to women who are at lower risk of CVD events"
    >> Reply

    -

    they had some very credible and well qualified witnesses .
    >> Reply

    -

    I disagree with you that the paper you have cited is completely without bias. The original review, published in 2011 and to which the review you cited is a follow up (adding five trials to the original 14), was criticised for having limitations in the published data that significantly undermined the findings of the review (1). Furthermore, of the 14 original trials that were reviewed, only one was publically funded, while the authors of nine trials reported having been sponsored either fully or partially by pharmaceutical companies (1). Als-Nielsen et al (2) demonstrated in 2003 that pharmaceutical industry sponsored trials were more likely than non-industry funded trials to report results that favour the drug over placebo. These findings were confirmed in a recent Cochrane methodology review (3) that stated: "Sponsorship of drug and device studies by the manufacturing company leads to more favorable results and conclusions than sponsorship by other sources."

    As was mentioned in the Catalyst piece, there is a belief out there that science is science no matter who pays for it. Your post has confirmed that.

    (1) http://www.thecochranelibrary.com/details/editorial/983199/Considerable-uncertainty-remains-in-the-evidence-for-primary-prevention-of-cardi.html

    (2) http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=197132

    (3) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.MR000033.pub2/abstract
    >> Reply

    -

    Yes I'm a big fan of the Cochrane Collaboration too, but they can only do systematic reviews on what's freely available. Sometimes they have trouble getting access to the whole study i.e. what was actually done by the researchers and not just an abstract. Some researchers have gone to the trouble of using freedom of information and this has made a difference to the review conclusions.
    I don't know, its all a bit mirky where so much money is involved.
    >> Reply

-

The program made some good points but lacked balance. Statins are over prescribed to elderly people and people at low risk of cardiovascular disease and underprescribed to people who have a very high risk, including people who have aleady had a heart attack.
A person's 5 year risk of having a heart attack can be worked out using algorithms based on all their known risk factors. That is a much more valid point than a cholesterol result to start the discussion on whether to go on a statin.
Everyone who goes on a statin should be warned of the possibility of developing muscle pains. Most people will not get muscle pains, but if they are going to develop it will be within the first few weeks. If they happen the statin should generally be stopped.
The program failed to point out that for people at high risk of cardiovascular disease, statins have a considerable effect in saving lives.
>> Reply

-

This was possibly the most important piece of TV medical journalism yet produced. Congratulations to Maryanne Demasi and the Catalyst team. I had come to these conclusions about 5 years ago, after my wife was prescribed a statin for "hypercholesterolaemia" (6.0) and suffered memory problems which quickly reversed on cessation of the drug. I was appalled by David Sullivan (who I happened to go through medicine with) saying that patients contrived these adverse effects. I suspect that this will be the beginning of the end for these drugs and the way Big Pharma treats the unknowing population.
>> Reply

    -

    Bit of a stretch for the most important piece of TV medical journalism. It is proven that even people taking a placebo will have side effects. This is what Dr Sullivan was saying, but he was poorly edited by Maryanne.
    >> Reply

-

Thanks so much for your programs on statins. It's time the lid was lifted on these awful drugs. I'm a 60-year old woman, have mild cardiovascular disease and a cholesterol level of 6. My cardiologist put me on statins. After a year or so of taking them I told him I was ditching them. Not only was every day a struggle in a range of ways from muscle pain to an unclear head, my hair was falling out (an apparently uncommon side effect). My cardiologist suggested I get a wig or wear a hat! How ridiculous. He also made the comment "would you rather die early and still have your hair than live longer without it?" When I said "yes" he was appalled. Interestingly, my GP says she puts little store in the benefits of statins. By the way, since going off statins I feel great, my hair has stopped falling out and is growing back where it had become very thin.
>> Reply

-

There are some nonsense statements here...
Professor Rita Redberg
"None of those people are less likely to die."
Then again..
Professor Rita Redberg
"None of those people are less likely to die. So you can take a statin for many, many years and you're just as likely to die as if you had not taken a statin."
How could you dispute a comment like that? Yes, it is highly likely that we are all going to die! She stops short of saying that you are less likely to die from heart disease.

>> Reply

    -

    Hi Bonnie,

    What Rita was probably referring to was a recently published study looking retrospectively at individuals started on statins for primary prevention and compared to a controlled cohort. Although heart attacks were lowering in the statin, ultimately the age of death in both groups was the same.

    There are obvious flaws in this kind of study. You're relying on information which may have been collected decades ago. You cannot properly control both groups, and it may well have been that the statin group were at a much higher risk from premature disease and that was the reason the statin was started in the first place. And there are other biases that creep in that often lead to misleading conclusions.

    To really support Rita's statement we need prospective control studies where these biases can be addressed. The problem is that it would be unethical to do these kind of studies, because the evidence that statin therapy is beneficial is so overwhelming that it would be unethical to deny high risk patients access to treatment in the name of research.
    >> Reply

      -

      Hey Dave
      After reading all your posts, I am really interested to know which pharmaceutical company you work for?
      I have never read such overwhelmingly profusive praise for drugs. Even the drug reps who come to peddle their wares to me have the grace to admit that statins are not as wonderful as that, and will admit that some concerns are justified.
      I am well aware that drug companies will use somebody to comment on sites like this. I note that most of your points are timed to suggest to a potential backslider that they should keep on taking their statins.
      >> Reply

    -

    To stop heart disease... cut out toxic sugar. Stop smoking. Eat natural home cooked foods. Stop eating trans fat.

    It is not cholesterol that is the problem. It is our modern day life style that is killing us

    >> Reply

    -

    It is said, quite clearly elsewhere in the program, that a small reduction in premature CVD deaths is compensated for by an increase in death from other causes (as well as a load of pain and discomfort) - within the same time periods.
    Depending on the specific population group treated, the death rate may be considerable higher in those treated with statins.

    >> Reply

-

my mother aged 75 had a very bad reation to statins and asked her gp, who told her to keep going. She just stopped taking it and felt fine. at 53, my gp was geared up to putting me on statins, and wanted me to do a test for cholesterol...no way was I going on statins because I have NO health issues and look 45, and have a healthy diet and fitness regime. My diabetic husband was also told to take them (no reason) and he refused. There's just a culture of prescribing them to over 50s by GPS, and they don't seem to question the efficacy of the drugs at all.
>> Reply

    -

    Some people complain that "the other side" was not heard. But it was. It was not the program's fault that the defenders of the "orthodoxy" , Drs, Sullivan and Grenfell, sounded so unconvincing. Was this because they are not really quite convinced themselves?

    As far as Ancel Keys is concerned: there seems to be a bit of a myth here that appears to have become accepted truth. He can be blamed for his tunnel vision but was he a deliberate fraud.? Denise Minger had an interesting blog post on that.
    >> Reply

    -

    After 20 years working in cardiac health care i wish to state that the documentary and debate it stirs is great. Medical references such as uptodate.comb still only refer to the cholesterol causing heart disease as a hypothesis ie not proven fact. Cochrane metaanalysis and research prove that science has been biased in its approach. There is more at stake here than just good health. Large amounts of money is what is at stake. Big business producing medications. Manufacturers wanting to sell their sugar laden toxic low fat foods. We can't stop them. Australian gvt dies not allow mandatory retiring of trans fats. Their force is to over whelming.
    >> Reply

    -

    Just because your GP wanted to check you cholesterol doesn't mean that your doctor was gearing up to prescribe a statin. They were following best practice guidelines. Do you also refused to have your blood pressure checked in case its high and you might need medication?

    You also say that your doctor wanted to put your diabetic husband on a statin for no reason. Did you know that diabetes puts you into one of the highest risk categories for a cardiovascular event? So it was not for no reason.

    Statins don't make you feel any better or worse they simply reduce your risk when prescribed appropriately.
    >> Reply


OTHER HEALTH STORIES

>> Browse by Topics

SPECIAL EDITION

Chemistry of Attraction Chemistry of Attraction See what happens when Catalyst throws a pheromone party. >> more


Subscribe to the ABC�s weekly Science Newsletter
Email address: