Beatrice A. Golomb, MD, PhD, heads the The UCSD Statin Effects Study group. In 2007 her group published a study that alerted the medical community at large to the larger potential risks of statins. Until last week, risks that had largely been either completely ignored or significantly minimized by the FDA, the pharmaceutical companies and prescribing physicians. Check out her presentation from 2008 on how money i.e. the profit motive of pharmaceutical companies, can influence scientific studies, the results of these studies and what studies actually come to light.
To be clear, I am not opposed to pharmaceutical companies or the men and women who work in the pharmaceutical industry. People have consciences, people have moral compasses and people have the capacity to understand right and wrong; corporations don’t posses any of these characteristics, which is not good or bad, it just is. For profit businesses, by definition, exist to make a profit. Whether they make their profits by selling iPads, growing vegetables or developing medicine, the end goal is the same, to make a profit. And that is fine. In fact it is great because the profit motive and the resulting marketplace competition spurs continuous product improvement and innovation. However it is up to those men and women which comprise these companies to be the first line of defense in insuring that the quest for profits is mitigated by doing what is right. We do not want to live in a world where iPads are made by indentured labor under unsafe or humane conditions, where our food supply is knowingly tainted by deadly bacteria or where important safety and side effect information for medicines which are supposed to improve the quality of our lives is ignored.
If new information comes to light, say information introduced in 2007 by the UCSD Statin Study group, they have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to seriously and objectively consider that information and act accordingly. Unfortunately, despite national media (NYT & WSJ) picking up on this story, it did not happen. What did happen was that the information was ultimately attacked, trivialized and buried. And with an estimated 40 million individuals in the US now taking a stain (Lipitor, Zocor and Crestor) the ramifications and health related consequences are potentially large.
All that said, nothing is ever clear cut; there are two or more sides to every story and numerous studies have sown that statins extend life. Do not act without guidance from your physician but do have a conversation with him or her. If they ignore or don’t seriously address your questions and concerns then you have the wrong doctor; switch immediately.