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The Cardiometabolic Risk Working Group: Another Coven Practising Drug-Induced Magical Thinking

Posted by Colin Rose on April 14, 2011

The latest issue of the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, published by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society (CCS), both of which are largely funded by the drug industry has shamelessly published a “Position Statement by the Cardiometabolic Risk Working Group” (see highlights below). We have previously blogged about the American “Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults” and the Canadian “Working Group on Hypercholesterolemia and Other Dyslipidemias”. Now that the ability of “cholesterol” to induce terror in doctors and patients has become a little worn and less profitable, drug dealers have invented a new disease, “cardiometabolic risk” with which to terrorize asymptomatic people into demanding even more drugs and doctors into prescribing them. Many of the members of the previous covens have migrated to the new one.

These medical covens take it upon themselves to dictate to the rest of the medical profession what drugs should be prescribed to prevent diseases of lifestyle in the otherwise “normal” population, so-called primary prevention. How are these covens assembled and what gives them the authority to establish norms for other doctors? This paper reveals in stunning clarity the answers to these questions. As we can see from the Acknowledgements and Disclosures sections, most of the authors of this Position Statement have many long-term financial relations with many drug dealers. Of the ten members of the executive committee of the Cardiometabolic Risk Working Group, nine have multiple financial relations with drug dealers and of the whole Working Group 19 out of 21 have similar relations. Clearly, drug dealers have distributed tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars to these doctors, justified under various guises, to facilitate a culture of drug dependency. Drug dealers choose members of  the Working Group, pay them to be “authors”, pay a medical writer to compose the Position Statement and get it published in a journal which would not exist without the financial support of the same drug dealers. Why am I not impressed and why would any other doctor follow the advice of this coven? But most family physicians and many cardiologists treat this sort of statement, endorsed by presumably unassailable organizations like the CCS, as revealed truth by a mysterious higher authority in possession of occult knowledge that must be accepted or suffer ostracism by one’s colleagues. Of course it doesn’t hurt that a 30-second drug prescription for numerical symptoms of junk food addiction is much easier that spending many unpaid hours reducing the addiction, the only real way to prevent its consequences.

Here is an example of the occult numerological incantations of the Working Group. Compare this with the occult number philosophy of Agrippa based on the pentacle below.

Optimize lipid levels. In patients with cardiometabolic risk with a moderate or high Framingham Risk Score, treatment should be initiated with a statin to reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) by at least 50% and to 2.0 mmol/L. Apo B levels are a better measurement of lipid-related risk in these patients, and the target level for treatment is 0.8 g/L in high-risk and moderate-risk individuals. There is a large residual risk for patients at high risk for CVD, despite LDL-C reduction with high-dose statins. Many patients with cardio- metabolic risk may also have an acquired combined hyperlipidemia, associated with increased triglycerides (TGs), a modest increase in LDL-C, and low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). LDL particle numbers are increased, as reflected by the increased levels of apo B100. Beyond LDL-C lowering, strategies that might reduce the residual risk include reducing the total cholesterol (TC) to HDL-C ratio, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, and TG, although there are no clinical trial data to date to support such strategies. In the patient with diabetes, glycemic control optimization and health behaviour modification should be attempted prior to the addition of another agent, such as a fibrate. In the Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes trial the addition of fenofibrate to simvastatin in patients with type 2 diabetes failed to show any reduction of CV events, although there may have been benefit in the subset of individuals with high TG/low HDL-C.

The deliberations of the Cardiometabolic Risk Working Group have much in common with pagan covens with occult rituals and symbols like the pentacle which when worn will drive out evil numbers such as “cholesterol”. Expensive statins for “cholesterol” and ARBs for high blood pressure are the new pentacle. The significance of the pentacle, as described by Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, makes as much sense as the Position Statement of the Working Group.  “A Pentangle also, as with the vertue of the number five hath a very great command over evil spirits, so by its lineature, by which it hath within five obtuse angles, and without five acutes, five double triangles by which it is surrounded. The interior pentangle containes in it great mysteries, which also is so to be enquired after, and understood; of the other figures, viz. triangle, quadrangle, sexangle, septangle, octangle, and the rest, of which many, as they are made of many and divers intersections…

When one manages to decode the occult numerology of the Statement one can see that the goal of the Working Group is to have every overweight junk-food addict in Canada, the typical “high-risk” patient, on some combination of pills for “high” blood pressure and “high” cholesterol. The “targets” for blood pressure and cholesterol are set low and arbitrarily to guarantee that most of the Canadian population would be on some drug. The drug dealers can be assured that doctors will prescribe the newest, most expensive patented drug rather than a cheaper generic alternative because they have already spend hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising the advantages of the patented drugs. This is called clever marketing but it has nothing to do with the health of the population. The consequences of self-destructive lifestyles will not be lessened by any number of drugs which will have the unintended consequence of worsening those lifestyles when people are convinced they can continue those lifestyles with impunity under the “protection” of drugs that make the numerical symptoms of those lifestyles look better. While the Position Statement gives lip service to the necessity of “health behaviour interventions” it insists also on the necessity of “vascular protective measures”, code for expensive drug prescription.

Canada is currently in the middle of a federal election campaign in which the most important issue for voters is “health care”. All parties are promising to increase “health care” spending by 6% a year indefinitely. With an inflation rate of only 2%, a PhD in mathematics is not required to see that in the not too distant future “health care” will consume the entire tax revenue of federal and provincial governments. The increase in “health care” spending is driven by the sort of activities represented by this Position Statement but no candidate dares to mention drug-induced magical thinking in their campaign speeches or platforms. The electorate loves its addictions and demands infinite “health care” to provide the mirage of protection from the consequences of those addictions and any candidate who points out the obvious absurdity of this belief is dead electoral meat.

How can we exorcise the myths promoted by these venal covens? There at two excellent drug review publications written by authors with absolutely no connection to drug dealers that should be required reading for every doctor: Prescrire, a French publication available in English, which is expensive but is the gold standard in independent thinking about drugs and the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin of Navarre, a Spanish publication, available in English, which is free but covers a limited range of drugs. A recent excellent article from the latter, “Magical numbers in pharmacological prevention of cardiovascular disease and fractures: a critical appraisal“, analyzed in detail the occult numerology of the drug-funded covens’ pontifications on “primary prevention” and concludes,

A considerable part of the pharmacological recommendations to prevent cardiovascular events and fractures in healthy persons lack any solid justification. No clear efficacy, nor the size of the effect of these agents or a clear balance between risk and benefit make the intervention clinically and socially worthwhile. The “therapeutic targets” and the “operative definition” of disease or risk factor that include instruments or tables to calculate risk are new gateways to unnecessary medicalization. In the context of modern medicine, immersed in conflicts of interest, the physician is obliged to interpret the results of trials and the recommendations from guidelines and consensus at a critical distance, and to place emphasis on the development of clinical prudence as a desired skill.

In other words a truly professional doctor will ignore any advice from the drug dealer funded covens and use his or her own best judgement.

Lawrence A. Leiter, David H. Fitchett, Richard E. Gilbert, Milan Gupta, G. B. John Mancini, Philip A. McFarlane, Robert Ross, Hwee Teoh, Subodh Verma,  Sonia Anand, Kathryn Camelon, Chi-Ming Chow, Jafna L. Cox, Jean-Pierre Després, Jacques Genest, Stewart B. Harris, David C. W. Lau, Richard Lewanczuk, Peter P. Liu, Eva M. Lonn, MD, Ruth McPherson, Paul Poirier, Shafiq Qaadri, Rémi Rabasa-Lhoret, Simon W. Rabkin, Arya M. Sharma, Andrew W. Steele, James A. Stone, Jean-Claude Tardif, Sheldon Tobe, Ehud Ur

Posted in Canada, cardiology, cholesterol, cme, continuing medical education, diabetes, diabetes, Type 2, diet, drug marketing, drugs, election, ethics, health care, junk food, medical terrorism, obesity, professionalism, statins | 5 Comments »

“Low risk” nurse with normal cholesterol but self-destructive lifestyle ends up with heart transplant after CCTA

Posted by Colin Rose on December 20, 2010

Here in a nutshell is a demonstration of the problem with expecting technology to substitute for good clinical medicine and save us from our self-destructive addictions. If anyone is puzzled about the dichotomy between the exorbitant cost of the US medical system and its relative lack of effect on any measure of health here is the reason.

Below is a story from followed by the actual paper in the Archives of Internal Medicine minus the references.

In the absence of any symptoms attributable to coronary artery disease there was no reason to do any more testing but the temptation to use high tech tools without good indication is irresistible to many doctors. CCTA is the latest expensive test to detect coronary atherosclerosis. Patients think that they will never have a heart attack and live longer if the disease is detected and some surgical procedure, like an angioplasty or bypass is done and doctors making $millions from doing them are not about to discourage them and point out the total lack of evidence for any significant benefit from angiography or the surgical procedures in patients with chronic coronary disease.

The authors have labelled this patient “low risk” because her “cholesterol” was normal but clearly she was at high risk based on her obesity and hypertension, both indices generally of  junk food addiction, in spite of her being a nurse.  When she started new exercises she probably got muscle pain from weight lifting. With an obvious self-destructive lifestyle, she should not have been “simply reassured” as recommended by the editors. But instead of encouraging her to make meaningful lifestyle change her doctors ordered tests with no clinical indication.

Framingham scores, lipid profiles and CRPs can be very deceptive because they do not assess LDL modification in the arterial wall, essential to the formation of atherosclerotic plaque. In spite of having “normal” numbers for all the usual “risk factors” she had advanced atherosclerosis in her coronary arteries. Apparently no dietary history was taken and no attempt was made to encourage her to change her lifestyle, an example of gross diagnostic and therapeutic incompetence, all too common in an era of absolute faith in the power of technology to protect us from our self-destructive addictions. Doctors abdicate professionalism by ordering tests instead of dealing with the real problems, like junk food addiction, which take much time for which they are not compensated and risk alienating patients who demand a high-tech fix or reassurance so that they can continue their risky behaviour.


Case study shows how “just-in-case” CCTA in a low-risk patient may spectacularly backfire

DECEMBER 17, 2010 | Reed Miller

San Francisco, CA – Coronary computed tomographic angiography (CCTA) in patients with a low pretest risk of coronary disease wastes resources and can even lead to horrendous outcomes, a case study published December 13, 2010 in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows. The report tells the story of a 52-year-old white female who initially presented with chest pain and had a CCTA; this was followed by an unfortunate chain of events in which she suffered an aortic dissection during cardiac catheterization and that culminated in her having a heart transplant.

Part of its ongoing “Less is More” series begun last April, the latest case, reviewed by Dr Matthew Becker (St Vincent’s Heart and Vascular Institute, Erie, PA), Dr John Galla (Providence Hospital, Mobile, AL), and Dr Steven Nissen (Cleveland Clinic, OH), describes how the well-meaning attempt to reassure a patient with a low risk of coronary disease backfired spectacularly.

“Perhaps the most important point to be learned from the case described by Becker and colleagues is that there are safer ways to reassure patients,” say journal editors Drs Rita RedbergMitchell Katz, and Deborah Grady (University of California, San Francisco) in an accompanying editorial. “Patients value our advice. Talking with our patients should be our first choice for reassurance.” They add that “applying the ‘less-is-more’ principles prospectively could have avoided this unfortunate case.”

From diagnostic uncertainty to disaster
The 52-year-old nurse had hypertension and mild obesity and had recently begun an exercise and diet regimen to control her weight and blood pressure. She presented to her primary physician with chest pain, but no other symptoms: she had a normal ECG with a normal lipid profile and normal C-reactive-protein level. Her doctor attributed the chest pain to a musculoskeletal cause but performed a CCTA to reassure her that she was not at risk for a coronary event.

The CCTA showed discrete, noncalcified, nonobstructive plaque in the mid and distal segments of the left circumflex and dominant right coronary arteries and diffuse, complex calcification in the proximal left anterior descending (LAD) coronary artery. Because that calcification was difficult to quantify, the physician recommended that she undergo cardiac catheterization to get a clearer look at the LAD.

This exam, performed at the local community hospital, revealed only a mild irregularity in the LAD, but during the procedure, the patient complained of chest pressure, which prompted an aortogram that revealed an aortic root dissection that was compromising the left main coronary artery.

So the patient underwent urgent coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery and stayed in the hospital for two weeks with a residual left ventricular ejection fraction of 35%. The bypass graft soon failed and was treated with multiple drug-eluting stents, but despite her compliance with dual antiplatelet medical therapy, a stent in the vein graft supplying the circumflex artery developed a thrombosis, causing an ST-segment-elevation MI complicated by cardiogenic shock. The thrombosis was successfully treated, but the patient remained in refractory cardiogenic shock and ultimately underwent orthotopic heart transplantation.

Unnecessary testing happening every day
“With few cardiac risk factors and an atypical chest pain presentation, this patient had a low pretest probability for coronary artery disease and should have been reassured and not undergone any further risk stratification,” say the authors. “Lacking randomized data suggesting improvement in clinical outcomes and with clear risks, including contrast load, radiation exposure, and suboptimal diagnostic specificity, CCTA should have a very limited role in the evaluation of patients who present with chest pain.”

They acknowledge the risk of complications associated with cardiac catheterization is low, but catastrophic events are always a possibility. They believe the physicians in this case overestimated the stenosis in this patient’s coronaries because they did not fully appreciate the CCTA’s potential for false-positive findings. Complete visualization of all segments of the coronary tree with CCTA is often hindered by cardiac motion, which can lead to the appearance of “blooming artifacts” of coronary calcification that may cause the observer to overestimate the extent of stenosis.

Becker et al point out that previous studies comparing CCTA with conventional coronary angiography in diverse patient populations show CCTA’s sensitivity is between 79% and 100% for the detection of obstructive coronary disease, but its specificity is only 64% to 85%, corresponding to “an unacceptably high false-positive rate” of up to 81% in some populations.

As reported by heartwire, the recently released professional guidelines on Appropriate Use Criteria for Cardiac Computed Tomography list CCTA as “inappropriate” for detection of CAD patients with a low risk of heart disease, ability to exercise, nonacute symptoms that may be an “ischemic equivalent,” and an interpretable ECG.

Patient could have been simply reassured
“If a test is not sufficiently accurate to change clinical management in a particular setting, it should not be done,” but according to Redberg et al, often these tests are done anyway—sometimes even before the patient sees a physician—because nobody has assessed the patient’s pretest probability of the disease or properly considered how the test result will change the clinical management of the patient.

“There are cases where [the test presents] more risks than benefits, and you really need to consider the risks and benefits and not [assume that] just because you can do the test, you should do the test. And this case highlights that,” Redberg told heartwire.

Cases like this where an inappropriate test leads to many complications and near catastrophe are rare, “but to have a CT or another test that was just done for reassurance, when you could have just told the patient ‘You’re fine,’—I think that’s done every day lots of times.

“You don’t know which [tests] are going to lead to that kind of problem, but you do know which of those is not going to give you any benefit, so if there is no benefit, it’s better not to be taking any risk, even a small one.”


Left Main Trunk Coronary Artery Dissection as a Consequence of Inaccurate Coronary Computed Tomographic Angiography

Matthew C. Becker, MD; John M. Galla, MD; Steven E. Nissen, MD

Arch Intern Med. Published online December 13, 2010. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2010.464


A 52-year-old woman presented to a community hospital with atypical chest pain. Her low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels were not elevated. She underwent cardiac computed tomography angiography, which showed both calcified and noncalcified coronary plaques in several locations. Her physicians subsequently performed coronary angiography, which was complicated by dissection of the left main coronary artery, requiring emergency coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Her subsequent clinical course was complicated, but eventually she required orthotropic heart transplantation for refractory heart failure. This case illustrates the hazards of the inappropriate use of cardiac computed tomography angiography in low-risk patients and emphasizes the need for restraint in applying this new technology to the evaluation of patients with atypical chest pain.


A 52-year-old white female nurse with a medical history that was notable for hypertension and mild obesity presented to her local primary care physician with the recent onset of chest pain. Further investigation revealed that in an effort to lose weight and assist in the control of her hypertension, she had adopted a new diet and exercise program several weeks earlier. At her initial presentation, she described 48 hours of nonexertional, sharp chest pain that was aggravated by elevation of her right arm and deep inspiration. She denied associated symptoms of shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, or diaphoresis, and her office electrocardiogram showed no abnormalities.Other than mild hypertension (blood pressure, 142/85 mm Hg), the results of her physical examination were unremarkable except that elevation of her right arm and palpation of the right chest wall reproduced the symptoms with which she presented. With a normal lipid profile and an ultrasensitive C-reactive protein level, she was diagnosed as having atypical chest pain most likely of musculoskeletal origin. Hydrochlorothiazide was used to treat her hypertension, and cardiac computed tomography angiography (CCTA) was performed to exclude the possibility of coronary artery stenosis and to reassure her. Interpretation of the CCTA findings suggested that both the left circumflex and the dominant right coronary arteries had discrete areas of mild, noncalcified, nonobstructive plaque in their mid and distal segments. The large-caliber left anterior descending coronary artery (LAD) was reported to have diffuse and complex calcification of the proximal segment, which made accurate quantification of the luminal stenosis challenging.

Subsequently, the patient’s physician recommended cardiac catheterization to enable more precise assessment of the LAD luminal stenosis. Selective coronary angiography was performed at the local community hospital and revealed only a mild luminal irregularity of the LAD. Shortly after the second injection of contrast, the patient complained of intense chest pressure and was noted to be hypotensive and tachycardic (blood pressure, 78/45 mm Hg; heart rate, 110/min). Mild “staining” of contrast was noted in the left coronary cusp of the aorta, and an ascending aortogram revealed a dissection of the aortic root extending into, and resulting in compromise of, the left main coronary artery. An intra-aortic balloon pump was placed, and the patient underwent urgent coronary arterybypass with saphenous vein grafting of both the LAD and the left circumflex coronary artery.

Following a prolonged, 14-day hospital course and a residual left ventricular ejection fraction of 35%, the patient was discharged home with intensive cardiac rehabilitation. Unfortunately, within 6 months of the bypass, she presented again with escalating chest pain and was noted have premature graft failure that was treated with percutaneous coronary intervention with multiple drug-eluting coronary stents. Despite her compliance with dual antiplatelet medical therapy (aspirin and clopidogrel daily), she presented 8 weeks later with an ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction complicated by cardiogenic shock. Emergent catheterization revealed thrombosis of the stent in the vein graft supplying the circumflex artery that was successfully treated with a catheter-based intervention. However, the patient remained in refractory cardiogenic shock and ultimately required urgent orthotopic heart transplantation.


Emergency department visits for chest pain syndromes represent a large and growing health care burden. Because patients with chest pain require urgent triage and timely management, there are great incentives for developing a new generation of novel, complementary diagnostic strategies. A recent addition to the diagnostic armamentarium, multidetector CCTA, can noninvasively generate reconstructed images of the coronary circulation. However, the brisk expansion and rapid adoption of CCTA over the past decade has outpaced supportive clinical data and has led to the referral of a much larger, and often lower-risk, segment of the population for coronary artery catheterization. We believe that in this case the unwarranted use of advanced diagnostic imaging (false-positive CCTA findings) directly contributed to unnecessary cardiac catheterization that resulted in a tragic complication and significant morbidity.Advanced diagnostic imaging technologies or the latest biomarker cannot, and should not, replace a thorough history and physical examination with subsequent decision making guided by the bestevidence-based practice. The need for testing in patients with chest pain is based on the clinician’s estimation of the pretest probability of coronary disease. In a patient with a low pretest probability (<10%) of having significant coronary disease, the preferred course is to reassure the individual and to focus the treatment plan on primary or secondary prevention strategies. Additional diagnostic testing rarely garners useful information and exposes the patient to unnecessary risk—both from the diagnostic test itself and from subsequent invasive testing because of false-positive results. While the risk of complications associated with cardiac catheterization is low, catastrophic events can occur. As opposed to CCTA, in appropriately selected patients coronary angiography allows the presence, location, and, most importantly, the functional significance (eg, fractional flow reserve, intravascular ultrasonography) of lesions to be determined. Because there is often discordance between luminal stenosis and the physiologic significance of lesions, functional testing has assumed critical importance in the assessment of patients with a moderate pretest probability (10%-90%) of coronary disease.

Therefore, given the possible adverse consequences of the overuse of diagnostic imaging in a broad and uncensored population of patients with chest pain, recent joint professional guidelines emphasize that ” . . . an appropriate imaging study is one in which the expected incremental information, combined with clinical judgment, exceeds the expected negative consequences by a sufficiently wide margin for a specific indication that the procedure is generally considered acceptable care and a reasonable approach for the indication. . . . “Furthermore, because of differences in body habitus, coronary physiology, exercise physiology, symptom presentation, and disease prevalence, the diagnostic accuracy of stress testing may be affected by the female sex. In addition to having a markedly different ST-segment response to exercise from a young age, data suggest that ST-segment depression tends to be less sensitive and specific for coronary artery disease in women. With normal electrocardiographic findings, negative cardiac biomarkers, and a classically atypical presentation, our patient had an age-specific risk level that was below average. She had a low pretest probability of coronary disease (<10% risk of myocardial infarction or death per 10 year interval), making further testing inappropriate and the chance of false-positive study results unacceptably high. However, in an era of rapid advancement in diagnostic imaging strategies, the savvy clinician must not forget the basic tenets of data-driven medicine, patient selection, and risk tolerance and ultimately realize when less may be more. Such is precisely the case with CCTA.

Because CCTA is rapid and noninvasive and has wide availability, it has increasingly been used to detect coronary atherosclerosis in a broad array of patient populations. However, the lack of randomized data suggesting clinical benefit, as well as technical and anatomical limitations, restricts its application in many patients. Studies comparing CCTA with conventional coronary angiography in diverse patient populations suggest that CCTA is highly sensitive (79%-100%) for the detection of obstructive coronary disease, with a positive predictive value ranging from 86% to 91%. However, these same studies report suboptimal specificity (64%-85%) and negative predictive values of 83% to 90% that correspond to an unacceptably high false-positive rate of up to 81% in selected subpopulations. Further limiting the diagnostic accuracy of CCTA is the fact that complete visualization of all segments of the coronary tree is hindered by cardiac motion (heart rate, >70/min), smaller vessel caliber (<2 mm), and tortuousity that may result in portions of a vessel moving in and out of an imaging plane. Furthermore, given its high attenuation coefficient, the presence of coronary calcification commonly produces a “blooming artifact” that makes accurate assessment of adjacent arterial luminal challenging and may result in overestimation of the degree of luminal stenosis, which is likely the case in the patient described herein. Therefore, CCTA often overestimates the presence and severity of coronary atherosclerosis to a degree that is dependent on the study population, the equipment used, and the experience of the interpreting physician, which may lead to unnecessary, higher-risk, and costly invasive procedures.

Nevertheless, the use of CCTA has increased dramatically over the past decade, with some estimates suggesting up to 26% per year. In an era in which comparative efficacy of therapies has assumed critical importance, the unchecked growth of CCTA seems not only unfounded but also irresponsible and unsustainable. Aside from its cost implications, CCTA also exposes the patient to substantial amounts of ionizing radiation. It is estimated that the collective dose received from medical radiation increased by more than 700% between 1980 and 2006, with increases in computed tomography accounting for more than 50%. Furthermore, 64-slice CCTA (without tube current modulation) exposes the patient to an average effective dose of 15 mSv of radiation compared with only 7 mSv for diagnostic coronary angiography. With recent data suggesting that 1.5% to 2.0% of all reported cancers in the United States may be linked to ionizing radiation from computed tomography, there is reason for pause.

In conclusion, our patient suffered a rare but devastating complication from an cardiac catheterization that was the direct result of unnecessary CCTA and false-positive findings. With few cardiac risk factors and an atypical chest pain presentation, this patient had a low pretest probability for coronary artery disease and should have been reassured and not undergone any further risk stratification. Lacking randomized data suggesting improvement in clinical outcomes and with clear risks including contrast load, radiation exposure, and suboptimal diagnostic specificity, CCTA should have a very limited role in the evaluation of patients who present with chest pain.

Posted in atherosclerosis, cardiology, CCTA, cholesterol, coronary artery disease, coronary computed tomographic angiography, diet, ethics, heart transplant, junk food, lifestyle, obesity, professionalism, surgery, technology, waist circumference | 1 Comment »

“When diet doesn’t work”

Posted by Colin Rose on September 21, 2009

Here is a graphic illustration of the concept of moral hazard as applied to the drug treatment of lifestyle diseases.


Reprinted from AdWatch


Many studies confirm that doctors’ behaviour can be influenced by drug advertising, but many of them are unaware of this.
Not only the advertising text, but also the images play an important part.
For example, see the above image in the Lescol advertisement published in the April 2008 issue of Rivista SIMG (Journal of the Italian Society of General Practitioners).

Lescol (fluvastatin sodium) is one of the statin class of drugs used to treat of high cholesterol when diet and other lifestyle changes don’t work.
The Summary of Product Characteristics states “for best results in lowering cholesterol, it is important that you closely follow the diet suggested by your doctor”.

What kind of advice could the doctor have given the two people on the beach?

They seem to be really happy and relaxed. The pastel colours, the calm sea and the blue sky in the background convey the impression that all is going well and no changes are needed.

The designer must have been influenced by the Colombian painter Fernando Botero, famous for his fat men and women, who generally emanate a sense of calmness and satisfaction.

What I can understand, as a doctor, after looking at this image?
“It doesn’t matter what I advise my patients to eat; it isn’t worth them trying to change their lifestyle behaviours.
Only the pill can make the difference!”

Posted in atherosclerosis, cardiology, cholesterol, diet, drug marketing, drugs, food, junk food, moral hazard, statins | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

OBSTAT-Doctors being paid to push drug study

Posted by Colin Rose on April 3, 2009

“Dr. LeLorier reports having served as a paid speaker or consultant for the following manufacturers of statins: Merck Frosst Canada, Pfizer Canada, AstraZeneca, and Bristol-Myers Squibb.” Why would anyone take any advice on statins from him?

Doctors being paid to push drug study
National Post
03 Apr 2009

Quebec doctors are being offered $100 for every new patient they put on cholesterollowering statin drugs as part of a major, federally subsidized study that is raising questions about the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on health…read more…

Posted in cardiology, drug marketing, drugs, ethics, professionalism, statins | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Drug Marketing by “Study”

Posted by Colin Rose on December 13, 2008



Posted in atherosclerosis, cardiology, cholesterol, drug marketing, professionalism, statins | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Cardiac disease threatens diabetics

Posted by Colin Rose on November 26, 2008

Dr. Terrence Ruddy, chief of cardiology at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, says the increasing number of people with diabetes is a major concern across the medical profession.

“The increasing number with diabetes is directly related to the increasing number with obesity,” he says. “We have an epidemic of obesity in young and older people. In older people, that is giving them diabetes now. In younger people, it will give them diabetes in the next 20 to 40 years.” It’s vital to reduce obesity, “not just for 40- to 50-year-olds but in 10 to 20-year-olds,” he says. “We need more money flowing into educational programs focused on lifestyle changes — increased activity, appropriate diet and weight loss in young people. Decrease obesity to decrease diabetes.”

Yet at least 500 cardiologists around the world were paid by AstraZeneca to take part in JUPITER, a clinical “trial” of Crestor in which most subjects were overweight or obese and NO attempt was made to reduce their weights. 1.5% per year became diabetic due to their inflamed excess visceral fat. Probably at least US$500 million flowed into this “trial” with NO “educational programs focused on lifestyle changes”.

Doctors pay lip service to the need to fight obesity but money talks. Those cardiologists probably received at least $1000 per subject to enroll them in the JUPITER “trial”. Why would they dare to insist upon lifestyle change first before enrolling the subject and forgo this income? Members of the “JUPITER Study Group” presumably overseeing the “trial” for AstraZeneca were probably paid $100,000 each for their “consultation”. Why would they insist on lifestyle change first before agreeing to participate?


Cardiac disease threatens diabetics
The Gazette
26 Nov 2008

Just one year after Dale Frayling was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, he suffered his first heart attack. Four months later, he had a second, more severe attack followed by bypass surgery. That was 11 years ago. The Saskatoon resident, now 57, has…read more…


Also blogged here: 1, 2


Here is the list of the cardiologists paid to participate in the JUPITER study who care more about money than advising patients on the best way to prevent atherosclerosis and diabetes.

Paul M Ridker, M.D., Eleanor Danielson, M.I.A., Francisco A.H. Fonseca, M.D., Jacques Genest, M.D., Antonio M. Gotto, Jr., M.D., John J.P. Kastelein, M.D., Wolfgang Koenig, M.D., Peter Libby, M.D., Alberto J. Lorenzatti, M.D., Jean G. MacFadyen, B.A., Børge G. Nordestgaard, M.D., James Shepherd, M.D., James T. Willerson, M.D., Robert J. Glynn, Sc.D., for the JUPITER Study Group

Appendix. JUPITER Clinical Sites

Argentina 253: Altamirano J, Berrizbeitia M, Boskis P, Colombo H, Cuadrado J, Cuneo
C, Diaz M, Esper R, Fernandez A, Foye R, Hershson A, Kuschnir E, La Greca R,
Lorenzatti A, Lozada A, Luciardi H, Luquez H, Maffei L, Majul C, Marin M, Muntaner
J, Nul D, Paolasso E, Rey R, Rodenas P, Rodriguez P, Rojas C, Telsolin P, Vita N,
Belgium 487: Adrianes G, Argento O, Bacart P, Baeck L, Baguet J, Balthazar Y, Battello
G, Behets J, Beke P, Bemden S, Berwouts P, Boermans P, Bolly F, Borms J, Boulad M,
Boulanger L, Bous J, Boxstael R, Brands Y, Buyse L, Calozet Y, Camps K, Capiau L,
Celis H, Coucke F, D’Argent F, De Beeck G, De Meulemeester M, De Praeter K, De
Rouck S, Delcourt A, Delvaux J, Demanet E, Derijcke M, Deruyck C, Devaux J, Dupont
C, Duyse J, Erpicum L, Gilio C, Gillet A, Grosjean J, Heeren J, Henry G, Heyvaert F,
Hollanders G, Hutsebaut A, Janssens P, Lannoy H, Ledoux C, Legros P, Leliaert R,
Martens R, Maury O, Mehuys G, Michaux J, Migeotte A, Mortelmans J, Mulders N,
Parijs P, Peer W, Pieters E, Reynders P, Riet D, Robert P, Stee J, Teheux J, Teuwen J,
Timmermans B, Tshinkulu M, Vantroyen D, Veevaete M, Vercruysse K, Vereecken G,
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Posted in atherosclerosis, cardiology, cholesterol, coronary artery disease, diabetes, diabetes, Type 2, diet, drugs, junk food, obesity, professionalism, statins | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

JUPITER is a gas giant

Posted by Colin Rose on November 21, 2008

An excellent article by André Picard in today’s Globe and Mail, the only story on JUPITER I have seen in the lay press that reveals the massive fraud behind the reporting of this “study”.

JUPITER is aptly named. It’s gigantic. Probably the largest, most expensive drug trial in history. When one looks below the surface of the publication in the NEJM, the results are about as exciting as the Jovian composition. A lot of gas. I would conservatively estimate that this “study” cost at least $500 million. But if you are AstraZeneca and stand to sell $many billions worth of Crestor because of this paper that’s small change. And junk food addicts, who comprise most of the subjects of JUPITER have one more excuse, however deceptive, to continue their self-destructive habits.

Here is my opinion posted in the NEJM blog on the paper.


A more detailed analysis of the marketing driven deception and lack of professionalism in the paper by Sandy Szwarc.

Another perspective by John McDougall similar to mine on the big lie behind the claim that many “healthy” people need Crestor..

When all of these criticisms are considered it turns out that JUPITER is nothing more than a thinly disguised  infomercial for Crestor and should never have been published in a presumably high quality journal like the NEJM. But in being able to make this paper freely available on the web (and not wait 6 months like other papers) the NEJM must have received a large payment from AstraZeneca.

Non-blinded statin trials like JUPITER, have the potential for bias in subjective outcomes like the decision to do an angioplasty or coronary bypass, outcomes that constitute the vast majority of the combined endpoint. Also, it is quite likely that when the JUPITER subjects knew that their blood LDL was low because they were taking Crestor they had less incentive to change self-destructive lifestyles. That is probably why the group treated with Crestor had significantly more diabetes. In light of the JUPITER trial the Therapeutics Initiatives group at the University of British Columbia has updated their recommendations for use of statins in primary prevention, which would include people like those entered into the JUPITER trial, and concluded that “statins do not have a proven net health benefit in primary prevention populations and thus when used in that setting do not represent good use of scarce health care resources.

See a slide show on JUPITER and “dyslipidemia”.


Lead “investigators” of JUPITER

Paul M Ridker, M.D., Eleanor Danielson, M.I.A., Francisco A.H. Fonseca, M.D., Jacques Genest, M.D., Antonio M. Gotto, Jr., M.D., John J.P. Kastelein, M.D., Wolfgang Koenig, M.D., Peter Libby, M.D., Alberto J. Lorenzatti, M.D., Jean G. MacFadyen, B.A., Børge G. Nordestgaard, M.D., James Shepherd, M.D., James T. Willerson, M.D., Robert J. Glynn, Sc.D., for the JUPITER Study Group


Dominican Republic

What typical JUPITER subjects would look like. These are "apparently healthy" people? Is it not unethical to prescribe drugs to these people to "treat" the symptoms of their self-destructive lifestyles?

Nowhere in the JUPITER paper will you see it mentioned that CRP can be markedly reduced with cost-free lifestyle change alone, no statins, as shown in this paper in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2006, results of which are summarized below. The subjects in the JAP paper were just the same as in the JUPITER study, obese people, many with metabolic syndrome but the authors did not call them “apparently healthy”. They had nothing to sell.



When it comes to statins, don’t believe the hype

November 20, 2008
The Globe and Mail
André Picard”Cholesterol drug causes risk of heart attack to plummet” – Fox News.

“Cholesterol-fighting drugs show wider benefit” – The New York Times.

“Cholesterol drug cuts heart risk in healthy patients” – The Wall Street Journal.

The New York Times article summarized the exciting news in a front-page story saying that “millions more people could benefit from taking the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins.”

That’s big medical/business news, because statins are already the bestselling drugs in the world, with sales in excess of $20-billion (U.S.).

Quoting some of the world’s top heart researchers, media reports touted the importance of a blood test for C-reactive protein. That’s because those benefiting from statins had high levels of CRP (a marker for inflammation) rather than high levels of LDL cholesterol, which is usually the criterion for statin prescription.

The news stories were based on research published last week in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine and presented, with much fanfare, at the annual convention of the American Heart Association.

Like much reporting on medical research (and drug research in particular), however, there is more (or, more accurately, less) to these stories than meets the eye.

The principal finding in this study was that participants who took a statin pill recorded a 50-per-cent reduction in the risk of heart attack, stroke, surgery and death compared with those who took a placebo (a sugar pill).

Who wouldn’t be wowed by those numbers? Who wouldn’t want that miracle drug?

But the benefits are relative risk reductions.

When you look at the raw data in the study, they reveal that 0.9 per cent of statin users had cardiovascular problems. By comparison, 1.8 per cent of those taking a placebo had heart problems.

There were 17,802 participants in the study, yet there were only 83 cardiac events among statin users, compared with 157 in the placebo group. That’s 50 per cent fewer.

Are those really “dramatic” findings? Do statins really make heart attack risk “plummet”?

According to a cautionary editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine (which received virtually no mention in news reports), 120 people in this study needed to be treated with a statin for two years to see a benefit in one person.

That’s a lot of people taking a pricey drug ($3 Canadian a day) for no benefit – not to mention that there are risks.

While researchers (and journalists who report on studies) love to highlight benefits of drugs, they too often gloss over risks.

Like all drugs, statins have side effects. The drug used in the study, rosuvastatin (brand name Crestor), has been associated with muscle deterioration and kidney problems.

In the study, those taking statins had a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes – 3 per cent compared with 2.4 per cent of those taking a placebo. That’s a 25 per cent higher relative risk among people with very little heart disease to begin with.

As noted earlier, researchers (and news stories) suggested that, based on the findings, the number of patients taking statins could and should expand dramatically.

But is that really what the research tells us, even in its most optimistic interpretation?

The study involved exclusively men older than 50 and women older than 60 who did not have high cholesterol or histories of heart disease or inflammatory illness. All the people in the study needed to have low cholesterol and high CRP.

Initially, researchers recruited 90,000 people in those age groups, but more than 80 per cent of them were deemed ineligible. This is a very select population.

To say, by extrapolation, that these “dramatic” (read: modest) benefits apply to the general population is erroneous.

Similarly, while it is true that about half of all heart attacks and strokes occur in people whose cholesterol is not considered high, does that mean everyone should get a blood test to measure levels of C-reactive protein? Hardly.

Yes, there is more heart disease among people with high levels of CRP, but the jury is still out on what this means.

Some scientists believe that because CRP – secreted in response to inflammation – is present in plaque, it increases the risk that the plaque will burst, leading to blood clots that cause heart attacks. But other researchers think that CRP levels are, at best, a telltale sign of heart disease, a bit like grey hairs are a sign of aging – not its cause.

The CRP test is expensive at almost $50. And it’s worth noting that one of the principal authors of the new research holds the patent on the test and makes money every time it is used.

When you cut through all the hype and the self-interest, what we know is this: Statins reduce levels of [LDL] cholesterol. This is beneficial to people who have had a heart attack or other serious heart problems.

But for otherwise healthy people, high CRP levels or not, the potential benefits of taking statins are marginal, and the risks are not insignificant.

Hardly the stuff of dramatic newspaper headlines.

Posted in atherosclerosis, cardiology, cholesterol, coronary artery disease, death, diabetes, diabetes, Type 2, drugs, junk food, obesity, professionalism, statins, waist circumference | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Prudent diet staves off heart woes (The Gazette, 21 Oct 2008, Page A4)

Posted by Colin Rose on October 21, 2008

Not a surprising finding, Dr. Yusuf. Fifteen years ago Dean Ornish proved that atherosclerosis, the underlying cause of heart attacks, could be reversed with a version of the prudent diet.  So why isn`t everyone doing this? Maybe because the cholesterol myth promoted by drug dealers and doctors on their payrolls convinced the population that all they had to do was take a pill to lower blood cholesterol and they could eat anything. Curiously, there is no mention of cholesterol in the story. Close reading of the paper published in Circulation reveals that there was no correlation between the diet and blood cholesterol, “bad” of “good”. Diet has a powerful effect on atherosclerosis independent of blood cholesterol. Probably something about the prudent diet reduces modification of LDL, so called “bad” cholesterol, in the arterial wall. Another body blow to the cholesterol myth which is slowly dying. Even Pfizer which has spend many $billions promoting the myth has given up on it.

The Gazette
21 Oct 2008

Hold the fries, samosas or fried won tons: People who eat diets high in fried foods and meat are 35 per cent more likely than ?prudent? eaters to suffer acute heart attacks, a global study led by Canadian researchers shows. And in a surprising…read more…

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Heart Attack at Age 19

Posted by Colin Rose on October 15, 2008

Cherepanov is not the first young Russian athlete to die of atherosclerosis. Remember Sergei Grinkov? The Russian diet is highly atherogenic and Russia has one of the highest rates of death from coronary artery disease.


In 1994 Gordeeva & Grinkov returned to Olympic competition and captured their second gold medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Oppland, Norway. After these Olympics, they returned once again to professional skating and took up residence in Simsbury, Connecticut. During the 1994-95 season, they toured, yet again, with Stars on Ice, this time as headliners. However, tragedy struck in November 1995, when Sergei Grinkov collapsed and died from a massive heart attack in Lake Placid, New York, while he and Ekaterina were practicing for their upcoming performance in the 1995-1996 Stars on Ice tour. Doctors found that Sergei had severely clogged coronary arteries (to the point where his arterial opening was reportedly the size of a pinhole), which caused the heart attack.

“In spite of the autopsy findings, he never sought medical attention for a cardiac problem,” said Pascal Goldschmidt associate professor of cardiology at Johns Hopkins. “His risk for premature coronary artery disease was very low; he was not a smoker, did not use drugs or medications, did not have high blood pressure or diabetes, had normal cholesterol and lipid levels and he trained several hours a day.”

BY MASON LEVINSON Bloomberg News, with files from Gennady Fyodorov and Natalia Sokhareva, Reuters
National Post
15 Oct 2008

Russian officials opened a probe into the death of New York Rangers? first-round pick Alexei Cherepanov, who collapsed on the bench during a Continental Hockey League game in Russia on Monday. Moscow regional investigator Yulia Zhukova said officials…read more…

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Effectively treating atherosclerosis without angioplasty or bypass

Posted by Colin Rose on September 17, 2008

Below is a example of the issues involved in treating chronic coronary atherosclerosis presented by an intelligent patient who asked questions about treatment and did not accept the mainstream opinion without good evidence.

The vast majority of patients with chronic coronary artery atherosclerosis can be treated as the patient described here. Most cardiologists still believe the profitable myth that heart attacks can be prevented by “treating” those blockages seen on a coronary angiogram. We now have good evidence that such blockages are composed of older, harder plaques that are less likely to rupture and cause a sudden total blockage and a heart attack. Angioplasty, stent or not, and coronary bypass are PALLIATIVE procedures indicated only for intractable symptoms related to decreased coronary blood flow reserve.


From ProCor

From the patient’s perspective: Effectively treating heart disease through diet, exercise, lifestyle and medication

In the late 1960s, Professor G. S. H. Lock was engaged in the development of the artificial heart to address cardiac conditions for which other alternatives were not available. Forty years later he writes, “Today it is difficult to argue that technological intervention on such a scale is really necessary on a routine basis. Even intervention through angioplasty and the insertion of a stent may offer little more than temporary relief.”

In this article, adapted from a longer feature in The Lown Forum, Professor Lock shares his experiences as a cardiac patient and his observations on the use of medical technology in cardiovascular care. The Lown Forum is a publication of the Lown Cardiovascular Research Foundation; ProCor is one of its programs.

Vikas Saini
President, Lown Cardiovascular Research Foundation

From the patient’s perspective: Effectively treating heart disease through diet, exercise, lifestyle and medication

G.S.H. Lock, Professor Emeritus and former Dean of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

My story begins, as it often does, with the onset of mysterious chest pains. My family physician immediately diagnosed it as angina, meriting further investigation. After numerous tests on treadmills and in machines whose operations are still a mystery to me, I was confirmed as a high-risk patient with a plumbing problem, usually described as coronary arterial occlusion. An angiogram was recommended and scheduled within two weeks. However, this seemingly routine procedure created a special problem for me because three of my colleagues had failed to recover from that very procedure. With apprehension, I listened to the consulting physician explain that the risk of complication was minimal (about 1%). I asked if there was an alternative. I shall never forget his answer: “Death.”

Needless to say, I was not reassured by this response from a very able doctor who was obviously bound by prescribed procedure. Even though he was careful enough to prescribe appropriate medication while I waited for the angiogram procedure, I sought a second opinion, at another hospital. This proved to be an equal waste of time. The physician simply described the use of angiography as a “no brainer” because he viewed it as the natural prelude to intervention. No other possibility was even considered.

These experiences led me to conduct my own extensive research on heart disease, its diagnosis, and treatment. The majority of cardiologists seem to favor intervention, with all of the technology that accompanies, if not drives, it. I, however, could not support such an approach except in emergencies or when surgery was clearly the only means by which a patient’s life could be improved if not saved. Through the Lown Cardiovascular Center I was able to confirm that a healthy minority of cardiologists are not interventionists, but believe instead that in the majority of cases, heart disease may be treated more effectively using medical therapy with its four components: diet, exercise, lifestyle, and medication.

At first glance, I thought that each of these would prove to be distasteful – something that would destroy the quality of life – but I found instead the very opposite.

Luckily for me, my wife is an excellent cook – dare I say chef? – and has developed the standard Mediterranean diet into such a variety of dishes that I eat better now than I did two years ago. This alone took my cholesterol level down well below the established safe limit.

Exercise, too, has improved my quality of life. My cardiologist at the Lown Center, Dr. Vinch, is himself and athlete and he reminded me that the heart is a muscle that needs to be nourished and exercised like any other muscle. Under his guidance, I began various walking exercises. At first, using a nitroglycerine spray to decrease the resistance of the peripheral vascular system, I took my daily walks in the river valley where I live. Gradually, the walks became longer and steeper. Today, I can briskly walk up and out of the river valley and then jog up 12 flights of stairs without any angina, and without using the nitroglycerine. 

Clinical Encounter 
Date Posted: 9 April 2008

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