So much for scientific debate

I thank Ted Hutchinson for pointing me at this article in the Irish Independent. It appeared on the 5th of October, and I reprint it in full, here.

A LEADING vascular surgeon, whose research review concluded cholesterol-lowering medicines may do more harm than good for many otherwise healthy people, has been gagged by the Health Service Executive.

Sherif Sultan, a senior medic at University College Hospital, Galway, reviewed a range of studies of statins and found a lack of evidence to show they should be given as a means of prevention to healthy people with high cholesterol but no heart disease.

Mr Sultan and his surgeon colleague Niamh Hynes said lifestyle changes to reduce cholesterol were better because this allowed people to avoid the risk of statins’ side effects.

However, in a statement last night, Dr Pat Nash, a cardiologist and the group clinical director in University College Hospital said the recently published views of his colleagues were “not representative” of those in Galway or neighbouring hospitals.

“As group clinical director of the West/North West Hospitals Group, and a working cardiologist, I wish to reassure patients that statins are safe,” said Dr Nash.

“These are very important, well-validated drugs for the treatment of elevated cholesterol. We have extensive evidence to show their benefit and to show that they improve outcomes for patients with heart disease and stroke and that they have a role in preventing heart disease and stroke.

“As always, if patients have any concerns, they should not discontinue their medication without discussing with their GP or consultant.”

Asked to comment, Mr Sultan said: “I have received an official warning from the HSE and have been instructed not to liaise directly with the press in my capacity as a HSE consultant.” However, he said he could continue to comment as a consultant vascular surgeon at the Galway Clinic, where he has a private practice.

The HSE declined to comment on the reasons for ordering Mr Sultan not to speak as a public consultant. He said he stood by his analysis of the role of statins in otherwise healthy patients with high cholesterol. He pointed to another recently published review on exercise versus drug therapy in the management of pre-diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“That ‘British Medical Journal’ analysis showed the superiority of exercise over drug therapy extends even to secondary prevention (where patients have developed disease)1.

This story has been rumbling on for a while. A report on the research paper can be found in the Irish Medical Times from a couple of weeks before.

The under-reporting of findings on major adverse effects of statin therapy and the way in which they had been withheld from the public, and even concealed, is a scientific farce, claims new Irish research.

Mr Sherif Sultan, Consultant Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon, and Niamh Hynes, Clinical Lecturer In Vascular and Endovascular Surgery, claimed their study, just published in the Journal of Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases (2013, 3, 179-185) highlights the major side-effects and dangers of statins.

They said there is a categorical lack of clinical evidence to support the use of statin therapy in primary prevention. They are both based in the Western Vascular Institute at University College Hospital Galway and the Galway Clinic. “Odds are greater than 100-to-1 that if you’re taking a statin, you don’t really need it2..

I was sent the original paper by Sherif Sultan a couple of months ago, and it is very scathing about statins….. very scathing indeed. It even suggests, perish the very thought, that pharmaceutical companies may have been trying to present statins in the best light possible. I find such a suggestion almost impossible to believe. Knowing how completely ethical these companies are.

Anyway, I suppose the key phrase in all of this sorry episode is the following:

The HSE declined to comment on the reasons for ordering Mr Sultan not to speak as a public consultant.”

If the Health Service Executive were to comment, what could they say to justify their actions?

The hell with scientific debate. He should just damned will shut up and say what we want him to say?”

“How dare anyone criticise the sainted statins which work in mysterious ways their wonders to perform.”

We expect utter loyalty from those who work in the glorious Irish Health Service. Those who do not support us can expect serious sanctions……”

On balance, declining to comment is probably the best policy for the HSE. Because if you start trying to justify why you are gagging a researcher for trying to tell the truth then, well, you will end up having to justify state censorship of scientific debate. Which never looks that good on the printed page, I find.

I feel I should sign off this blog with a quote from George Orwell, taken from 1984. “Being in a minority, even in a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad.”

1: http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/hse-gags-surgeon-after-cholesterol-drug-claims-29636095.html

2: http://www.imt.ie/news/latest-news/2013/09/study-claims-to-highlight-the-ugly-side-of-statins.html

24 thoughts on “So much for scientific debate

  1. zoe harcombe

    Hi Malcolm – another great but worrying blog. What is also worrying – as you know well – is the lengths that the ‘system’ is going to to hide funding channels. It’s taking me way longer of my precious time than it should to find out that the Nat University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) is in bed with the drug co.s.

    You know that it will be the case – supposedly independent supposedly academic institutions leap to defend to protect their funding lifeline and this case is no exception.

    You have to search the University’s web site carefully to find this press release about loads-a-money: http://www.nuigalway.ie/about-us/news-and-events/news-archive/2013/august2013/nui-galway-projects-secure-13m-in-health-research-board-funding.html

    There are more details here:
    http://www.nuigalway.ie/about-us/news-and-events/news-archive/2008/november2008/new-communication-aid-to-improve-access-to-healthcare-for-migrant-workers-refug-1.html The bottom line is that NUIG gets 1.3 MILLION Euros from HRB – a so-called Health Research Board.

    This tells us that the HRB gets funding from SRI to establish an SRC (had enough TLAs yet?! That’s Three Letter Abbreviations BTW):
    http://www.hrb.ie/about/in-the-news/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=19&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=73&cHash=c3894a46d2
    and “The SRC’s Industry Partners are GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Merck Sharpe & Dohme, Novartis, Roche, Amgen, Erigal, Caliper Life Science, AntiCancer Inc. ”

    Got there in the end!

    You can also search the NUIG web site for Pfizer references: 331
    Eli Lilly references: 115
    GSK: 82
    All innocent refs I’m sure!
    Ciao – Zoe

    Reply
  2. Janet Shea-Simonds

    Thank you once again Dr Kendrick for your willingness (and ever welcome) to share your informative blogs with us who are keen to learn.

    Reply
  3. tanstaafl

    Depressing – both statins ( sorry ! 🙂 ) and 1984. Though it reminds me of another quote from 1984: ” He who controls the past controls the future, and he who controls the present controls the past”.

    Orwell would no doubt have found much scope in statins……..
    I don’t take them. I’m officially flagged as an exception for QOF.

    I’m enjoying the blog – keep it coming.

    Thanks

    Reply
  4. Louise

    Interesting that the Irish Government also plans to reduce the cost of Atorvastation to Irish patients. Looks like a very cosy relationship between the government and big pharma. My father lives in the area covered by the West/North West Hospital Group, I expect he will be statinated before too long

    Reply
  5. Lorna

    Why does searching for medical honesty about statins feel like being part of an ‘underground’ movement? Corruption of truth in science must be the most cynical type of manipulation with all its devastating potential for harm. Thank you, Dr Kendrick, for your ongoing battle with this wilful scientific bigotry.

    Reply
  6. Patricia Cherry

    Thanks for the links Zoe, will look them up. We are certainly in the minority here. All we can do is be steadfast and walk with our refusal to take these drugs. As Mark Twain said; Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. We sceptics are reflecting of each other and must carry on doing so. That way we will become a bigger and bigger lighthouse for all the world to see. Carry on with the good work Malcom and Zoe. I have also read Jimmy Moores, Cholesterol Clarity recently too.

    Reply
  7. David Bailey

    I sort of feel optimistic after reading this blog – because it seems to me that the issue over statins is clearly coming to a head. Publicly censoring someone like that, must be a last resort of the establishment – because they know that the publicity that such a step will generate, will cause the truth to leak out anyway.

    Hopefully there are journalists already contacting Sherif Sultan, asking for off the record briefings – explaining the details (or maybe just directing them to “The Great Cholesterol Con”). Hopefully, those journalists have also come to this site and read the links posted by Zoe Harcombe (above) pointing out the probable financial reason for the gag!

    Since I had my brush with statins – that interacted horribly with my polio leg – I have casually mentioned the problem to a number of friends and acquaintances, and heard a remarkable number of similar stories. This seems totally at odds with this paper:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2517983/

    This claims that muscular problems with statins are similar to those found in a placebo group. Maybe the abstract itself suggests a possible way in which this result was obtained.

    “Among statin users (n = 402), 22.0% (95%CI 18.0–26.7%) reported musculoskeletal pain in at least 1 anatomical region during the last 30 days, compared with 16.7% (95%CI 15.1–18.4%) of those who did not use a statin.”

    Since statin users are predominantly older, many will report some sort of aches and pains, and will presumably appear as part of the 22% or 17% totals – thus increasing both figures, and hiding the fact that statins can cause extraordinarily unpleasant symptoms – nothing like the musculoskeletal pain associated with getting older!

    When I was put on simvastatin, I was told that any muscle problems would appear within a few weeks. Mine came on 3 years later – so maybe they never even got reported – even though I stopped and started the statin more than once and the symptoms waxed and waned accordingly!

    Reply
  8. RHOD TIBBLES

    Having been a career Government research analyst, and having personal and domestic reasons to look at the cholesterol v heart disease v statins issue, I looked at all the medical research and books such as yours, to try and get to the bottom of it. Medically it is apparent even to a layman like me that this hypothesis does not stand up. The HSE is still sticking with blatantly idiotic, contradictory and medically negligent position on cholesterol causing systemic heart diease, and statins needing to be prescribed for it, to anyone over reading ;5;. Hopefully more and more doctors will ‘be outed’ on the subject – guys…your patients need you..!!!

    Reply
  9. GG

    Our health should not be at the mercy of the big pharmas and institutions whose relationships with the big pharmas cloud their medical vision to the point that they cannot see what is right in front of them.

    Thank you for continuing to show us what they don’t want us to know about.

    Reply
  10. Sue Richardson

    Re the whole statin issue coming to a head, there have certainly been a few articles in the news recently about adverse effects from statins – followed usually a few days later by an article about how amazingly wonderful they are for everyone in the universe! It is possible that there may be a backlash coming which could result in a loss of trust in not only the drug companies but also in our doctors. I, for one, am extremely wary of any medication suggested now, and I can’t be alone in this. We should be able to rely our doctors, and by following blindly, the pro-statin statistics given by the drug companies, our GPs and hospital doctors etc are in danger of losing not only their credibility, but also the trust of their patients. We need to question what our doctors are prescribing without a doubt, but what happens when you take away that trust? How will folk know when to believe a medication prescribed for them by their doctor is a good thing or a bad? This is surely another ‘adverse side effect’ of the pharmaceutical companies’ determination to make money.

    Reply
  11. Bernard P.

    I understand Mr Sultan’s and Mr Hynes’ statements were not so extreme, since they said that lifestyle changes to reduce cholesterol were preferable to statins.

    They could have gone further and said that cholesterol is not a significant factor in CVD.

    Reply
  12. eddie watts

    in other words
    “stop bad mouthing statins: they are so good for our income stream that it is inconceivable they could be bad for anyone”

    Reply
  13. Mike Wroe

    An interesting news item appeared on the BBC website today reporting that “The risks of stroke, heart and circulatory disease are higher in areas with a lot of aircraft noise. The study of 3.6 million residents near Heathrow suggested the risk is 10 to 20% higher in areas with highest levels of aircraft noise.”…..
    “A separate study published on Wednesday in the BMJ demonstrates a higher rate of admission to hospital with CV problems for people living near 89 airports in the US”
    In Dr Kendrick’s book The Cholesterol Con he tells us that “The primary cause of heart disease…is…stress.” Should we now add excessive, disturbing and disruptive noise eg aircraft noise to Dr Kendrick’s list of physical stressors that create an unhealthy stress response?

    Reply
  14. dearieme

    It would seem that censorship has not been abolished in Ireland, it’s just that the ruling clique has changed.

    Reply
  15. Suzanne Jeffery

    My name is Suzanne Jeffery and I am a nutritionist in Plymouth, Devon. Stress of all kinds acts as a trigger for chronic health conditions. I have done a lot of research into hidden dental conditions such as occult jawbone infections, which a lot of people have without knowing about them. These hidden infections gradually wear down the immune system and leak their toxins into the weakest areas of the body, which can be from a genetic point of view, the arteries leading to the heart. Chinese medicine associates the molars with the heart. It has been often common practice to remove wisdom teeth, even if they don’t need removing. When these sites don’t fully heal, as statistics show happens in around 99% of cases, they can become a focus of infection for distant organs. Something to think about in the pathophysiology of heart disease! https://www.facebook.com/goodhealthclinicplymouth

    Reply

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