Pfizer Ads Come Clean about Lipitor, BUT IS Anyone Paying Attention?

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                  Tuesday, November 04, 2008 

                        Pfizer Ads Come Clean about Lipitor, but Is Anyone
                        Paying Attention?

                        Written by Rodger Murphree, D.C.
                        TAC, Integrative Healthcare , Volume 30, Issue 3
                        Published:
                              

 

                        Accounting for 6.5 percent of the total market share,
                        statin drugs are the most widely sold pharmaceutical
                        drugs in history. To date, Forbes Magazine tells us that
                        statins are earning drug companies $26 billion in annual
                        sales.
                        Pfizer spends over $3 billion each year to convince us
                        that we need more and more drugs to be healthy. The
                        public and the medical profession have been bamboozled
                        by the legions of drug reps, billion dollar ad
                        campaigns, and creative statistics. Every weekday, some
                        38,000 Pfizer sales reps, roughly the size of three army
                        divisions, make their pitches around the globe. They’re
                        armed with briefcases full of free drug samples, reams
                        of manipulated clinical data, and lavish expense
                        accounts for wining and dining doctors and their staffs.
                        The medical profession, its organizations, the media,
                        and the public at large have swallowed the statin drug
                        propaganda, hook, line and sinker.
                        In 2004, Pfizer’s blockbuster drug Lipitor became the
                        first prescription drug to make more than $10 billion in
                        annual sales. Over twenty-six million Americans have
                        taken Lipitor, the most popular statin drug. Pfizer is
                        now running full-page Lipitor ads in numerous papers,
                        including The New York Times and USA Today. The ads
                        feature Dr. Robert Jarvik, inventor of the artificial
                        heart. The ad reads: In patients with multiple risk
                        factors for heart disease, LIPITOR REDUCES RISK OF HEART
                        ATTACK BY 36%.* The noteworthy part of this ad is the
                        asterisk and this explanation of the 36 percent
                        statistic: "That means, in a large clinical study, 3% of
                        patients taking a sugar pill or placebo had a heart
                        attack compared to 2% of patients taking Lipitor."
                        
                        Another Jarvik/Lipitor Times ad proclaims: "In patients
                        with type 2 diabetes, LIPITOR REDUCES RISK OF STROKE BY
                        48%.* If you also have at least one other risk factor
                        for heart disease...." The explanation: "That means, in
                        a large clinical study, 2.8% of patients taking a sugar
                        pill or placebo had a stroke compared to 1.5% of
                        patients taking Lipitor."
                        Twenty-six billion dollars a year for a one to two
                        percent decreased risk for heart attack and
                        stroke—that’s what all the fuss is about? It almost
                        seems like snake oil. Yet, some doctors are recommending
                        we put statins in the drinking water. Others are now
                        suggesting that infants with a family history of heart
                        disease should take statins as a preventative measure.
                        The Washington Post ran an article that reported on the
                        PROVE-IT study: "‘The findings should prompt doctors to
                        give much higher doses of drugs known as statins to
                        hundreds of thousands of patients who already have
                        severe heart problems,’ experts said."
                        Perhaps "the experts" aren’t aware of studies that show
                        low serum total cholesterol is associated with a marked
                        increase in mortality in advanced heart failure.
                        One of the largest of these studies was conducted at
                        UCLA Department of Medicine and Cardiomyopathy Center in
                        Los Angeles. The study involved more than a thousand
                        patients with severe congestive heart failure (CHF).
                        After five years, 62 percent of the patients with
                        cholesterol below 129 mg/l had died, but only half as
                        many of the patients with cholesterol above 223 mg/l.
                        The Post article goes on to say: "In addition, it will
                        probably encourage physicians to start giving the
                        medications to millions of healthy people who are not
                        yet on them and to boost dosages for some of those
                        already taking them to lower their cholesterol even
                        more."
                        The last line of the quote above should ellicit alarm
                        from every taxpayer in America. Why? Because it will be
                        the taxpayers who will pay for all those Medicaid and
                        Medicare statin prescriptions, amounting to billions of
                        dollars spent on worthless and dangerous drugs. Worse,
                        we’ll also be paying for all the costs associated with
                        the drug-induced side effects of the statin
                        medications—congestive heart failure, polyneuritis,
                        muscle pain, depression, memory loss (dementia), poor
                        immune function, and fatigue, to name a few.
                        Okay, the real question is this: "Do statin drugs reduce
                        deaths associated with cardiovascular disease?"
                        Contrary to the Lipitor ads, apparently not, since a
                        meta-analysis of forty-four trials involving almost
                        10,000 patients showed the death rate was identical at
                        one percent of patients in each of the three
                        groups—those taking atorvastatin (Lipitor), those taking
                        other statins and those taking nothing.
                        And what about using statins as a prophylactic measure?
                        A meta-analysis of five major statin drugs showed that
                        statin drugs provided a total absolute reduction in
                        total mortality of 0.3 percent among those who showed no
                        signs of having cardiovascular disease (primary
                        prevention). With respect to preventing heart attack and
                        stroke, the five combined studies showed that statins
                        prevented these events by a mere 1.4 percent.
                        We’d be wise to read the study below before putting
                        statins in the drinking water.
                        The British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology reported on
                        an analysis of all the major controlled trials before
                        the year 2000 and found that long-term use of statins
                        for primary prevention of heart disease produced a one
                        percent greater risk of death over ten years, compared
                        to a placebo.
                        The only thing statin drug trials have proven for sure
                        is that statin drugs lower cholesterol by inhibiting an
                        enzyme known as HMG-CoA-Reductase. Regardless of their
                        ability to lower cholesterol, they failed to show that
                        this effect has any meaningful benefit for preventing
                        early death from heart disease, heart attack or stroke.
                        And they’ve proven to be a catalyst for dangerous side
                        effects.
                        The most common side effect associated with statin drugs
                        is muscle pain and weakness. The symptoms are most
                        likely due to the depletion of CoQ10, a nutrient that
                        supports muscle function. One study found that 98
                        percent of patients taking Lipitor and one-third of the
                        patients taking Mevachor (a lower-dose statin) suffered
                        from muscle problems.
                        A Denmark study that evaluated 500,000 patients found
                        that taking statins for one year raised the risk of
                        nerve damage by about 15 percent—about one case for
                        every 2,200 patients. For those who took statins for two
                        or more years, the additional risk rose to 26 percent.
                        Former astronaut Dr. Duane Graveline describes in his
                        book, Lipitor: Thief of Memory, his complete memory loss
                        due to the side effects of Lipitor.
                        The incidence of congestive heart failure (CHF) has
                        steadily increased since the introduction of statin
                        drugs. In fact, while heart attacks have slightly
                        declined, CHF has more than doubled since 1989. Statins
                        were first prescribed in 1987.
                        An article published in the Journal of the American
                        Medical Association reveals that, in every study with
                        rodents to date, statins have caused cancer. In the CARE
                        trial, breast cancer rates of those taking a statin went
                        up 1500 percent.
                        And one last reason to avoid statins—men whose
                        cholesterol levels are lowered through the use of
                        prescription medications double their chances of
                        committing suicide.
                        I applaud Pfizer for coming clean on their new Lipitor
                        ads. I just hope the public and the brainwashed medical
                        community pays attention to the asterisk and the fine
                        print. A one to two percent benefit earns Pfizer ten
                        billion dollars a year. Mind-boggling, isn’t it?
                        Rodger Murphree, D.C., has been in private practice
                        since 1990. He is the founder of, and past clinic
                        director for a large integrated medical practice, which
                        was located on the campus of Brookwood Hospital in
                        Birmingham, Alabama. He is the author of Treating and
                        Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Heart
                        Disease What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You, and Treating
                        and Beating Anxiety and Depression with Orthomolecular
                        Medicine. He can be reached at
                        www.treatingandbeating.com, by email at
                        drrodgerm@yahoo.com or by phone at 1-205-879-2383.
                        References
                        1. Harriet Rosenberg and Danielle Allard “Evidence for
                        Caution: Women and statin use” Women and Health
                        Protection June 2007
                        2. Business Week magazine Lipitor cover story: “Do
                        Cholesterol Drugs do any Good?”January 17, 2008.
                        3. TheHeart.org from Web MD www.theheart.org, see video
                        blog of Eric J. Topol, MD, “Temple of the LDL
                        Cholesterol.”
                        4. "REPEAT/New Study Showed VYTORIN® Superior to Lipitor
                        in Reducing LDL ''Bad'' Cholesterol in Patients with
                        Type II Diabetes at the Recommended Usual Starting
                        Doses."  Business Wire. June 12, 2006.
                        5. The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics,
                        www.thincs.org.
                        6. Rodger H. Murphree D.C., Heart Disease What Your
                        Doctor Won’t Tell You.  Harrison and Hampton Publishing
                        Birmingham, AL. 2006.