(Catalyst under fire)
Those who read this blog will know that Maryanne Demasai, a journalist at the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC), put together two programmes. One questioning the cholesterol hypothesis; the other very critical of the over-prescribing of statins. They can be seen here.
Over several months I helped Maryanne to put together the scientific arguments, and I feel proud to have done so. I warned her, though, that she should expect a vicious backlash if the programmes ever went out. Of course, it has happened.
Also, exactly as I told her, the attacks are not on the data. They can’t be, as the science she presented is pretty much spot-on. They are personal attacks on everyone who took part. Those she interviewed are being accused of being “crack-pot quacks”, ‘into earthing’….and ‘snake oil salesman selling vitamins’ etc.
You can see the latest (evidence free attack) here. A programme by media watch, which includes such scientific observations as the fact that Maryanne did not smile when speaking to a conventional ‘expert.’ Off with her head, the biased hussy! http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/
Of course none of this surprises me. I knew exactly what would happen, and how it would happen. This is not because I am sort of a genius. It is that I have seen it all before, many times. Here follows a personal testimonial from a Dutch Journalist Melchior Meijer, who had the temerity to criticise statins in the past:
‘My name is Melchior Meijer. I’m medical reporter for several magazines and newspapers in The Netherlands. Reporting about the many obvious flaws in the cholesterol hypothesis, shedding light on the biologically plausible adverse consequences of statin therapy, is as close to 21st century blasphemy as a medical journalist can come.
I experienced this in 2004, when I wrote an article about statins in a national newspaper. In the article, several doctors and scientists expressed well founded doubts about the safety of statin therapy in the general population. I also presented a few `anecdotal’ cases of statin induced harm, which were extremely easy to find.
The medical establishment reacted in fury and started an aggressive media offensive. Carefully avoiding the arguments in my article, they used their authority to hang me out on TV as a liar, a potential mass murderer. They called for `official measures’ to prevent naive journalists from making similar `tragic mistakes’ in the future.
They also took me to the Press Court, but they didn’t reckon with the fact that the Press Court checks facts and figures. The Court did an investigation and decided that I had just done my job, observing and questioning. [As an aside: the chief of my newspaper, born into a family of influential physicians, was not happy with the Court’s decision. He had already apologized on television for `this tragic mistake’.]
After this statin users started calling and mailing to the media, always reporting the same symptoms: various degrees of (muscle pain) and loss of muscle mass, exhaustion, personality changes and amnesia. But my colleagues didn’t like to take up this serious issue. That is, until last March when the TV-colleagues of TROS Radar, a consumer programme with an average of 2 million watchers (we have 16 million inhabitants), took up the subject.
Dutch cardiologist Dr Paul de Groot expressed his doubts about cholesterol as a causal factor, and postulated that statins sometimes do more harm than good, especially in primary prevention. Dr Uffe Ravnskov, who by the way was honoured yesterday with the prestigious Leo Prize for independent science, pointed out the many flaws in the cholesterol hypothesis.
The programme also interviewed people who had experienced devastating side effects from statins, which quickly disappeared upon discontinuation – although sometimes they did not. I was on the programme to explain how Unilever had succeeded in keeping an unfavourable article about its cholesterol lowering spread Flora out of the press.
When the shit hits the fan…
My time is limited, so I will make it short. Radar was vigorously attacked from all directions. Professors Martijn Katan and John Kastelein used various media outlets to shamelessly fire irrelevant, slanderous attacks on Dr Ravnskov. As usual, they did not address any of the scientific arguments. Radar invited Katan and Kastelijn for a public debate with Drs Ravsnkov and Kendrick, but they declined.
The Dutch Cardiologists Association, together with the Healthcare Inspectorate – and this is critical – announced official guidelines for medical journalists who plan to cover `delicate medical matters.’
History, you see, does repeat itself, and so I can predict what now happens in Australia. There will be calls to bring in ‘official guideline for medical journalists who plan to cover ‘delicate medical matters.’ This is also known as press censorship. It has been popular in various dictatorships over the years. Currently, North Korea is the best place to see this in action.