Intravascular ultrasound is a sensitive method for measuring the size of atherosclerotic plaques in the arterial wall. When testing a drug to see if it will have an effect on plaque volume, this technique is the gold standard.
ILLUSTRATE set out to show that adding torcetrapib, a drug that increases HDL, the “good” cholesterol, to Lipitor, that decreases, LDL, “bad” cholesterol would reverse plaque or at least stop its progression.
Here are the baseline characteristics of the subjects. Note that the average BMI was 30. Overweight is defined as a BMI over 25 and obesity over 30. So, all of them were overweight or obese. 20% were diabetic, most likely Type 2, related to obesity, and 75% were hypertensive. 18% smoked. All of those factors are risk factors for atherosclerosis related to lifestyle. Therefore, unless one intends to first completely eliminate these lifestyle risk factors, it was unethical to even conceive such a trial particularly since it is proven that atherosclerosis can be reversed by lifestyle change alone. The trialists probably rationalized that atherosclerosis, like pneumonia, must be treatable by drugs and Pfizer, who funded the trial, has a slogan, “Working for a Healthier World” it is ethical to do such a trial. Besides the money helps to keep one’s IVUS lab going and one is promoting the notion that the technique will some day lead to the cure for atherosclerosis.
Here are the reported results. What was not mentioned in the abstract above is that plaque actually INCREASED in both the the Lipitor only group and the Lipitor plus torcetrapib group. Now, before actually starting the trial, the subjects were given enough Lipitor to adhere to the guidelines written by doctors paid by Pfizer and other statin dealers. So, following the guidelines for blood cholesterol lowering with Lipitor does not slow progression of plaque. The obsession with blood cholesterol is completely futile.
The conclusions of the authors shows their blinkered view of atherosclerosis. While Dr. Nissen donates his personal drug money to charity (how much is paid to run his IVUS lab, if any, is not stated), all the other authors have major financial connections to drug dealers. Revkin, Shear and Duggan are employees of Pfizer and own stock. Naturally this group would ignore non-drug methods for reversing atherosclerosis
We have known how to reverse the atherosclerotic process very easily since the revolutionary work of Dean Ornish the final report of which was published in 1998. No drugs are necessary, only a change in lifestyle which was not seriously attempted in this study. There is even no reference to Ornish’s work in the paper, a major oversight of the reviewers. So, why don’t the IVUS groups do a study of plaque volume after significant lifestyle change? Who would fund it? If Pfizer is really “Working for a Healthier World” and not just making a profit, Pfizer should be funding an IVUS lifestyle trial.