Statin research and information
17/01/10 10:27 Filed in: Cardiovascular disease
by Dr. Walter Fernyhough, ND
OK, so here’s the pre-blog on cholesterol lowering drugs. I ended up writing a lot about research in general and the delivery of information, so I decided to do the blog about statins later ... in case some of you didn’t want to read the boring research part (although I think this is an important prelude to cholesterol lowering drug part).
In order to talk about cholesterol lowering drugs (which, these days, refers to statin drugs almost exclusively) I needed to go back into the research. Going through the research is a daunting and tedious task (and frustrating and anger producing). I’m not talking about the fairly easy to read articles you find in the newspapers (pharmaceutical press releases) or on the web (pharmaceutical press releases or opinion pieces). I’m talking about original papers written about the research by those who did the research (not always the case). Most people, including doctors, do not read the original research but instead rely on what the pharmaceutical companies (and supplement companies when talking about Naturopathic Doctors and Health Food Stores) feed to them through press releases to media outlets and medical associations.
Many people will go to the internet for their information, but here you have to be careful. You might have thought that just because you see the same information on hundreds of websites that it must be true, well, this is not usually the case. When they copy each others information on the internet, that information can escalate extremely quickly. The information becomes something of an urban legend (made up information that is repeated so many times that it takes on a life of its own). Many times this information can begin with a poorly done study that is reported, or a study that is wrongly reported. Once the information is out there others will pick it up and re-report it without looking at the original study. Plus, there is the fact that the pharmaceutical companies (and supplement companies) know that more and more people are going to the internet for their information. With the multi billions of dollars a year that they make on their drugs, you have to know that the pharmaceutical companies will spend a little bit of that on manipulating the information that people receive. And with the internet even less regulated than Radio and TV ... well ... you get the picture.
Research articles are supposed to be peer reviewed before they are published but even that process is in question these days. Two former editors of prestigious medical journals recently commented that the journals had become just marketing agents for the pharmaceutical companies. The true scientists had lost control of the research to the interests of the corporate pharmaceutical giants. Even the neutrality of the federal regulators (FDA in the USA and Health Canada here in Canada) has been questioned. For decades many people and groups have written about the regulators ties to the pharmaceutical companies (through money and people). An example of this can be seen in Saturdays Vancouver Sun. I will copy some of the wording here since, for some reason, the internet version of the Sun seems to have ‘accidentaly’ omitted this story so I can’t just forward you to their site. Here’s an excerpt (they’re talking about BPA, a chemical used in many plastic items including baby bottles):
“...the chemical ... has been linked to prostate and breast cancer, reproductive failure, obesity, heart disease, diabetes and behavioural problems. BPA manufacturers, however, have maintained it is safe. Indeed, the FDA ruled in 2008 that the chemical was safe for all uses - a decision based on two studies, both paid for by BPA makers. The Journal Sentinal found that lobbyists for the chemical industry wrote entire sections of that decision. E-mails obtained by the newspaper found that the FDA relied on chemical industry lobbyists to examine the chemical’s risks, track legislation to ban it and even monitor press coverage.
You’ll notice that the FDA had no problems letting the manufacturer do the research and write it’s findings on it’s own product. It was almost as if the BPA manufacturers were actually working for the FDA (or the other way around). It wasn’t until investigative journalists (hard to find these days) from the Journal Sentinal found these gross conflicts of interest that anything was actually done. If they hadn’t done this work, the BPA manufacturers ... oops ... I mean the FDA (the american watchdog over all foods and drugs) would still be telling the public that BPA (a chemical that is linked to prostate and breast cancer, reproductive failure, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and behavioural problems) is safe, based on ‘studies’ and information supplied by the BPA manufacturers. And don’t think that this is only happening in the US. Did you know that the provincial Liberal government recently appointed a new committee to oversee drug policy in British Columbia and that this committee is made up mostly of pharmaceutical company reps? Talk about the Wolves guarding the Hen house.
OK the previous paragraphs were a little long and tedious (you should have seen it before I edited it). Hey, if I’m going to sift through the tedious research it’s the least I could put you through. Just remember, take all the information you read with a grain of salt because people can write whatever they want, and they can write “research shows” whenever they want too. And even the research can be suspect; so a little training on how to read the research helps (it still doesn’t make it un-daunting or any less tedious - unless you enjoy statistics of course). Even though reading through the medical research may not be the most pleasurable experience, it is a useful practice for helping people make choices about their healing journey, and that’s why I’m here.
Coming soon (I hope) the article about cholesterol lowering drugs.
Here’s to your health.