The efficacy of the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins in preventing cardiovascular disease is under fire again. An article in today s L.A. Times takes the current approach to post-marketing prescription drug assessment to task, saying that the commercial benefits that pharmaceutical companies gain from high selling drugs is a strong disincentive for them to collect data on the drugs efficacy for off-label conditions. Harvard Medical School s Dr. John Abramson, author of "Overdosed America: The Broken Promise of American Medicine," tells the L.A. Times that the need to exercise and eat a healthy Mediterranean-style diet is drowned out by the conflicts of interest posed by big pharma s incentive to profit from these drugs.
Noting that Dr. Abramson's interest in book sales could also constitute a conflict of interest, ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan adds, The message gets drowned out by the fact that these dietary and lifestyle measures don t work that effectively to reduce cholesterol.
According to ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross, "There is no question that statins along with the decline in smoking rates and more effective blood pressure drugs have contributed greatly to the ongoing decline in the death toll from vascular diseases since their introduction 20+ years ago. The jury is still out on primary prevention, however. Does statin use protect us from a first heart attack in the presence of elevated cholesterol levels? I had thought so but maybe the evidence is not so strong."