As I told you in my previous newsletter we (16 international experts and myself) have documented that people older than 60 years live longer if their ”bad” LDL-cholesterol is high. I also told you about the critical comments from supporters of the cholesterol campaign published in several newspapers, and why they are invalid. We have not yet found any critical comments in the medical journals except for two Rapid Responses published on the web by British Medical Journal, where you also can read the responses by me and other researchers. As you will see, none of the objections are valid.
How come that in many studies high LDL-cholesterol is a risk factor for younger people, when it isn´t for the elderly? My answer is, that it is a risk marker of cardiovascular disease. It is associated with cardiovascular disease, but association is not the same as causation. Yellow fingers are associated with lungcancer, but you cannot prevent or treat lung cancer by taking away the yellow colour. If high LDL-cholesterol were the cause, it should of course be a risk factor in all studies, but this is not the case. For instance, we also found three large studies of younger people with similar results.
The reason why high total cholesterol and even LDL-cholesterol is a risk factor for young and middle age men in most studies is most likely because stress is able to increase cholesterol by up to 40% in the course of half an hour, and stress may cause cardiovascular disease by other mechanisms. Several studies have also shown that other factors are associated with high cholesterol, for instance smoking and lack of exercise. Furthermore, high cholesterol is not a risk factor for Canadian men, Stockholmers, Maori people and almost all studies have shown that high cholesterol is not a risk factor for women. You can read more about that in my first book ”The Cholesterol Myths” which is available for free as an e-book from Smashwords.
Recently Steven Nissen, chairman of the Robert and Suzanne Tomsich Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic and a well-known supporter of the cholesterol hypothes, and my coworker David Diamond, a professor in the Departments of Psychology and Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology at the University of South Florida and a member of THINCS were interviewed about their view on fat and cholesterol in a radio show organized by The People´s Pharmacy. Move the cursor on the green bar to about 7 min., where they start interviewing Steven Nissen. After a short pause it starts again at about 20 min. The interview with David Diamond starts at 25.25 min. and continues at 40 min.
After the show David Diamond was attacked in The News & Observer for his ”false claims” and ”dangerous message” by Ann Marie Navar, a cardiologist at the Duke University. One of her arguments was that Professor Diamond is not a cardiologist, but as you will see from his response on University of South Florida´s homepage a non-cardiologist may be more well-informed than a cardiologist. It is of course also easier for a non-cardiologist to point at the many controversial facts because he or she is economically independent on the generous producers of the cholesterol-lowering drugs.
A common argument from the supporters of statin treatment is that it is both cheap and harmless. Some of them have even compared statin treatment with a seat belt, but whereas it is without risk to use a seat belt, statin treatment may be followed by multiple serious side effects as I have told about in several of my newsletters. If you want to read the scientific papers about statin side effects, go to a website constructed by Kelly Brogan, a colleague who has made a list of links to more than 200 such papers.
How come that this information is unknown for most doctors, you may ask. Because of money. According to Marcia Angell, the former editor of New England Journal of Medicine, the combined profits in 2002 for the ten drug companies on the global business magazine Fortune’s 500 list were higher than the profits for all of the other 490 businesses put together! They can therefore afford anything and this is what they do. Let me cite a section from my book Ignore the Awkward:
“Before 1980 researchers who wanted to test a new drug received a grant from its producer, but the latter had no influence whatsoever on the way the trial was run. Thanks to new legislation the situation has changed radically. Today the drug companies pay for the necessary meetings, workshops, conferences, fees for speakers and authors and travel expenses for hundreds of participating doctors and researchers in each trial. They prepare the trials, take part in the selection of patients and the control group individuals, specify the study design and produce the protocols, participate in monitoring the results and the analysis of blood cholesterol. They are also responsible for the complicated statistical calculations and they decide whether a clinical trial report shall be published or not.
Even the trial reports are in the hands of Big Pharma. In many cases PR firms write them and when completed, the drug company asks renowned researchers to put their name on the top. According to Richard Smith (the previous editor of British Medical Journal) many medical journals are packed with articles ghost-written by pharmaceutical companies, but their influence goes further. Listen for instance to Marcia Angell:
Researchers serve as consultants to companies whose products they are studying, become paid members of advisory boards and speakers bureaus, enter into patent and royalty arrangements together with their institutions, promote drugs and devices at company-sponsored symposiums, and allow themselves to be plied with expensive gifts and trips to luxurious settings, and many also have equity interest in the companies.
Even the most prestigious universities are supported generously. For instance, Harvard Medical School is sponsored by a dozen of the major drug companies. BigPharma has also invaded the National Institutes of Health, where all of the governmental research grants and funding are administered. A large number of senior scientists supplement their already high income by accepting large consulting fees and stock options from drug companies that have dealings with their institutions.
The practising doctors have lucrative financial arrangements with BigPharma as well. For instance, in the US they are paid more than $10,000 for each patient they enrol in a drug trial, and after the sixth patient they can expect a further $30,000.
How is all that possible? And is it legal? It is legal because the drug industry’s long arm reaches into legislation. The pharmaceutical industry has by far the largest lobby in Washington. In 2002 the number was 675 lobbyists, more than one for each member of Congress. They also know how to exert an influence because 26 of these lobbyists were former Congress members and 342 had been otherwise connected with government officials.
BigPharma’s influence reaches higher up. For instance, the former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfield was chief executive officer, president and also the chairman of Searle, a major drug firm, now owned by Pfizer. Mitchell E. Daniels, jr., former White House budget director, was senior vice president of Eli Lilly, and the first President Bush was on the Eli Lilly board of directors before becoming president.”
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These facts makes it very difficult to inform the medical world about what is wrong. As I see it the only way to stop the statin madness is to inform ordinary people about the many side effects and the criminal ways used by the drug companies to market their products. Listen for example to Professor Peter Gøtzsche, who is the head of Nordic Cochrane.