Last year I read The Smear, a highly illuminating book written by a former CBS reporter named Sharyl Attkinsson. As you may recall, I mentioned her in this post and included a YouTube video of her speaking about fake news. She gave this description of Wikipedia:
Anonymous Wikipedia editors control and co-opt pages on behalf of special interests. They forbid and reverse edits that go against their agenda. They skew and delete information in blatant violation of Wikipedia’s own established policies with impunity.
Yup. Like when, say, a vegan editor starts deleting articles about people and films who say animal fats don’t cause heart disease.
In The Smear, Attkinsson explains that much of what passes for major-media journalism today is nothing more than P.R. designed to promote an agenda. She describes the P.R. techniques, including labeling anyone who disagrees with the agenda as a denier or a conspiracy theorist. When you hear those terms, she explains, you’re supposed to just stop thinking about the issue.
Oh, he’s a denier, so he must be wrong. The media says this is a conspiracy theory, so there’s nothing to it.
Just one little problem: throwing around those terms isn’t an argument. It’s not a rebuttal. It doesn’t prove diddly. If CNN says leprechauns are changing votes in voting machines, and I say that can’t happen because leprechauns don’t exist, I may be a DENIER! — but I also happen to be right. If a bunch of tobacco executives testify before Congress that nicotine isn’t addictive, and I say they’ve buried research showing that nicotine is highly addictive, I may be a CONSPIRACY THEORIST! — but I also happen to be right.
When you hear DENIER, you are of course supposed to immediately equate the contrarian with a Holocaust denier. Denier? Has to be kook. Ignore and move on …
So it’s no surprise that defenders of the arterycloggingsaturatedfat! theory have taken to using the terms cholesterol deniers and statin deniers. Here’s an example from an article in The Guardian:
A group of scientists has been challenging everything we know about cholesterol, saying we should eat fat and stop taking statins. This is not just bad science – it will cost lives, say experts.
Wait, timeout. I’ve pointed this out before, but it’s worth mentioning again: whenever a media article includes phrases like say experts, or experts say, or the experts believe, you’re looking at an agenda-driven, biased article. The accurate statement on any controversial issue is some experts say. And of course, other experts disagree. Experts say in an article means this is what I, the reporter, believe and want you to believe as well.
According to a small group of dissident scientists, whose work usually first appears in minor medical journals, by far the greatest threat to our hearts and vascular systems comes from sugar, while saturated fat has been wrongly demonised. And because cholesterol levels don’t matter, they argue, we don’t need the statins that millions have been prescribed to lower them. A high-fat diet is the secret to a healthy life, they say. Enjoy your butter and other animal fats. Cheese is great. Meat is back on the menu.
Heh-heh … notice how she was careful to tells us the dissidents are people whose work usually first appears in minor medical journals.
This is more than bad science, according to leading scientists and medical authorities. It will cost lives. “Encouraging people to eat more saturated fat is dangerous and irresponsible,” is a typical verdict, in this case from Prof Louis Levy, the head of nutrition science at Public Health England (PHE).
Leading scientists and medical authorities … in other words, experts say. And of course, you’re going to tell us exactly why the science is bad, right?
The advice from PHE, the World Health Organization, the British Heart Foundation (BHF), Heart UK and other institutions and top academics is consistent. Butter and cheese may be fine in modest amounts in a balanced diet, but the saturated fat that they contain is potentially risky.
Well, there’s your proof. The organizations that have been preaching arterycloggingsaturatedfat! for decades still do so – as opposed to committing organizational suicide by admitting they’ve been giving incorrect and possibly harmful advice. I’m convinced.
When it comes to statins, there is a huge database of research. Since 1994, the Nuffield department of population health at Oxford University, led by two eminent epidemiologists, Collins and Prof Richard Peto, has been amassing and analysing the data in order to figure out how well they work in preventing heart attacks and strokes.
They have published many papers. In 2016, in a major review in the Lancet, they concluded that lowering cholesterol over five years with a cheap daily statin would prevent 1,000 heart attacks, strokes and coronary artery bypasses among 10,000 people who had already had one.
I see. A paper was published in a medical journal saying statins are wunnerful, wunnerful and save lives. So it has to be true. And yet …
Last week’s letter of complaint asked Dr Fiona Godlee, the editor-in-chief of the BMJ, which publishes the British Journal of Sports Medicine, to intervene, saying the journal had run 10 pieces advocating low-carb diets and criticising statins in the past three years and that the reluctance to run the rebuttal showed a bias and lack of transparency.
Wait, you mean a different medical published articles criticizing statins? Hmmm, let’s do the math … a medical journal praises statins … another medical journal criticizes statins … divide by pi … carry the one … okay, I have the answer: the editors of the medical journal that criticized statins are DENIERS!
That’s the apparent (ahem) “logic” of the article. It’s nothing more than hit piece devoid of any actual logic.
Fortunately, the Wisdom of Crowds has been kicking in, whether the statinators like it or not. Check out this article in Science Daily:
A new study has found that patients with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease cut their risk of a second major adverse cardiovascular event by almost 50 percent, if they adhere to taking a statin medication as prescribed by their doctors.
Wait, timeout. I have my doubts about how they came up with that 50 percent figure, but here’s the phrase that caught my attention: cut their risk of a second major adverse cardiovascular event. That means this study was of people who’d already had a cardiovascular event. To the very slight degree that statins work, they work better in people who already have heart disease.
I’ve mentioned the site called TheNNT, which is maintained by doctors to help other doctors evaluate the effectiveness and side effects of drugs. According to that site, among people who don’t already have existing heart disease and take statins for five years:
- One in 104 will avoid a heart attack, but
- No lives will be saved
In other words, the statin will prevent one non-fatal heart attack for every 104 people who take the drug.
Among people who have existing heart disease and take statins for five years:
- One in 83 will avoid a fatal heart attack
- One in 39 will avoid a non-fatal heart attack
- One in 125 will avoid a stroke
In that major review in the Lancet, statinators Collins and Peto claim statins would prevent 1,000 strokes and heart attacks for every 10,000 people who take them. That’s one in 10. Look at those numbers from TheNNT again and tell me how that’s possible.
And keep in mind, the figures cited on TheNNT were compiled from the studies that were published. As we all know, drug companies used to just bury the studies they didn’t like. Now they have register their clinical trials ahead of time.
Anyway, back to the Science Direct article:
While that’s good news for patients, the bad news, however, is that researchers from the Intermountain Healthcare Heart Institute in Salt Lake City found that only about six percent of patients are in fact following the statin regimen given to them to lower their cholesterol, negating any potential cardiovascular benefits.
Only six percent of people prescribed statins are taking them as directed? Why would people stop taking such a wunnerful, wunnerful drug?
Researchers also found that 25 percent of patients never filled their statin prescription in the first place, and 25 percent didn’t fill their second one.
Again, why in the heck would so many people quit this wunnerful, wunnerful drug after just one prescription?
This article from Healthline about the same study offers some clues:
No drug comes without potential side effects, but the most frequent one experienced with statins is reasonably minor compared to the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
“Myopathy, which is muscle weakness, is the most frequently reported complaint, and severe myopathy (rhabdomyolysis) only occurs in about 1 in 10,000 patients,” Dr. Victoria Shin, a cardiologist with Torrance Memorial Medical Center in California, told Healthline.
That figure is, of course, absolute poppycock. One in 10,000? According to TheNNT (again, using figures from the studies that were actually published), one in 10 people who take statins for five years are harmed by muscle damage. Not a bit of weakness. Actual damage. So Dr. Shin is only off by a factor of 1,000.
I recently watched an excellent Netflix series titled The Pharmacist, about a pharmacist (duh) who began raising hell about the opioid crisis and pill mills nearly 20 years ago. In one episode, we learn that Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, insisted that less than one percent of people taking the drug become addicted. I’m sure they had (ahem) “research” to back that claim. But does anyone believe that figure is even remotely accurate? OxyContin didn’t become known as Hillbilly Heroin, with a huge trade on the black market, because only one percent became addicted.
The percentage of side effects reported by Big Pharma in their own trials are pure fiction. See if you can find 10 friends or relatives who’ve tried statins. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts (and you can keep the donuts) at least three of them experienced muscle pain and weakness. In fact, I recently came across this study of statin side effects:
AIM: We investigated the incidence of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) in patients treated with statins for cardiovascular (CV) risk among the United Arab Emirates (UAE) population.
CONCLUSION: The incidence of ADRs among statin users was 42.6%, and frequent ADRs (49%) were noted in patients with high CVD risk.
Hmm, let’s see … in pharma-sponsored research, the most frequent side effect is muscle weakness, but by gosh, it only happens in 1 in 10,000 patients. (Well, severe myopathy, anyway. How weak and sore do you have to get before they label it severe?) Meanwhile, in a study published just this year, 42.6% of people taking statins reported adverse drug reactions.
And it’s not just muscle pain and weakness. Here are some quotes from a recent article on the BBC news site:
“Patient Five” was in his late 50s when a trip to the doctors changed his life. He had diabetes, and he had signed up for a study to see if taking a “statin” – a kind of cholesterol-lowering drug – might help. So far, so normal.
But soon after he began the treatment, his wife began to notice a sinister transformation. A previously reasonable man, he became explosively angry and – out of nowhere – developed a tendency for road rage.
Then one day, Patient Five had an epiphany. “He was like, ‘Wow, it really seems that these problems started when I enrolled in this study’,” says Beatrice Golomb, who leads a research group at the University of California, San Diego.
Dr. Golomb, by the way, has been running her own research on statin side effects. She says the incidence of side effects is waaaaay higher than one percent, or five percent, or whatever the latest nonsense figure promoted by Big Pharma is.
Over the years, Golomb has collected reports from patients across the United States – tales of broken marriages, destroyed careers, and a surprising number of men who have come unnervingly close to murdering their wives. In almost every case, the symptoms began when they started taking statins, then promptly returned to normal when they stopped; one man repeated this cycle five times before he realised what was going on.
I hope he didn’t kill five wives before figuring it out. Now I’m wondering if Henry VIII was taking statins back in the day.
According to Golomb, this is typical – in her experience, most patients struggle to recognise their own behavioural changes, let alone connect them to their medication. In some instances, the realisation comes too late: the researcher was contacted by the families of a number of people, including an internationally renowned scientist and a former editor of a legal publication, who took their own lives.
Why are so few people actually following their doctors’ orders to take those wunnerful, wunnerful statins?
Because in the internet age, people experiencing the nasty side effects of statins can go online and find out yes, the statin is to blame. Back when my mom had joint and muscle pains from taking a statin, she didn’t know statins were the cause. (Neither did her doctor, who simply prescribed pain pills.) Nowadays she, or someone she knows, would likely learn online that statins cause muscle and joint pains. People share articles like the one above on Twitter, Facebook, etc. The Wisdom of Crowds does what it does.
The statinators want us to remain ignorant and dutifully take the drug. Sorry, but that’s not going to happen. There’s no stopping or denying the Wisdom of Crowds … even if we’re a bunch of DENIERS!