Panaceia or Hygeia

immunize yourself against the pandemic of lifestyle diseases

Archive for the ‘statins’ Category

Drugs for lowering blood cholesterol, the most commonly prescribed class of drugs in the world and the most useless in most cases for which they are prescribed.

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 »

MUHC Endorses Pfizer’s Products

Posted by Colin Rose on April 9, 2010

Lipitor.ca

This is a back lit box on the first floor of the Montreal General Hospital, the “mountain campus” of the MUHC. This is how the McGill University Health Centre is caring for your health. Obviously Pfizer expects that the “professionels de la santé” at the MUHC would highly recommend Pfizer’s products and obviously the MUHC administration expects that they would. How many $millions is Pfizer paying the MUHC for this priceless endorsement of its products which directly benefit those “professionels de la santé?” What would happen to any of the “professionels de la santé” who gave “précieux conseils” that Lipitor was useless in the vast majority of people for whom it is prescribed as described in our blog page on statins? Do true professionals associate with organizations that take money from the profits of companies selling the products they recommend? In Quebec our taxes are about to increase dramatically to pay for a “health contribution” a lot of which will go to paying for expensive, mostly useless drugs like Lipitor. That’s good business if you are running a hospital but not if you are really caring for health. If you would like to protest this highly unprofessional behaviour  phone Rebecca Burns (MUHC media) at (514) 934-1934 Ext. 71443 or  email Dr. Arthur Porter, CEO of the MUHC.

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Update, April 16, 2010

It seems the MUHC administration felt some heat. One week after posting this blog, the Pfizer ad had been removed. They reacted so fast that they had no replacement and had to leave only an embarrassing blank light box.

Thanks to all those who took the time to register their opinion of this example of grossly unprofessional behaviour.

One hopes that in the future McGill and the MUHC will think twice about prostituting themselves to the drug dealers.

MGH-Box

Posted in cholesterol, drug marketing, drugs, ethics, professionalism, statins | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

“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.

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Reprinted from AdWatch

LescolItaly2008-04

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 »

WHAT YOU EAT MAKES YOU FAT

Posted by Colin Rose on September 13, 2009

Great article, Joe. We appreciate there are those that are confused. But there are also large numbers who know what is healthy to eat, but easily blind themselves to reality; they are junk food addicts. That “food”  that the cruise passengers are piling on their plates is specifically formulated to appeal to addictions to sugar, salt and the mouth feel of fat. Unfortunately, treating junk food addiction is just as hard as treating addictions to tobacco, cocaine or heroin. Doctors are not trained to and not paid to treat addictions. They are paid to “treat” the symptoms of junk food addiction, like hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and “cholesterol” and do futile gastric bypasses. “Treatment” of these symptoms deceives the addict into believing that s/he can avoid the consequences of the addiction and makes the addiction worse. Americans are inundated with direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug advertising, claimed to be a First Amendment right by corporations with $billion ad budgets, promoting this deception and doctors are paid to prescribe those drugs.  Canada is catching up fast. Obesity rates are rising and there is pressure from the media to allow DTC in Canada, presumably guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.

The solution? Each individual has to balance the transient pleasure of addiction against the long term disastrous consequences of the addiction. In our society this is the hardest thing most people have to do 24/7/52 for a lifetime and doctors must avoid aggravating addictive behaviour.


WHAT YOU EAT MAKES YOU FAT
JOE SCHWARCZ
The Gazette
13 Sep 2009

Occasionally, I like to spy on people. Only for the sake of science, of course. And what better opportunity to do that than on a cruise ship? I like cruising. Besides outstanding entertainment, impeccable service, interesting ports, activities galore…read more…

 

Posted in addiction, diet, drugs, ethics, food, junk food, lifestyle, moral hazard, obesity, professionalism, statins | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Yves Bolduc – Minister of Health and Drug Salesman

Posted by Colin Rose on April 27, 2009

On learning that Quebec spends much more per capita on drugs than the Canadian average, Yves Bolduc, Quebec’s Minister of Health and Social Services, proclaimed that he wanted everyone to know that this was GOOD NEWS and that he was happy to see that Quebec was ahead of the other provinces. He added that in Quebec people take the drugs they need for their diseases while in the other provinces they don’t take the drugs they need and as a result their high blood pressure and cholesterol problem aren’t treated. He also thinks that spending more on drugs is economic because more drugs mean less is spent in other treatments.

Lets examine the Minister’s logic.

If Quebec is ahead of other provinces, in what respect is it ahead? Quebec has the same life expectancy as Ontario but less than British Columbia who spend much less on drugs. Nova Scotia which spends the most on drugs has one of the lowest life expectancies in Canada. So, there is no correlation between drug consumption and the best measure of overall health, life expectancy.

statcan-lifeexpectancyBolduc says that drugs are needed to treat high blood pressure and cholesterol. Not true. Lifestyle change is far more efficient and cheaper than drugs for treating these “diseases” that are in most cases just symptoms of self-destructive lifestyles. He wouldn’t dare say that all weaned citizens of Quebec should follow a low-fat Mediterranean type diet, eat no junk food and have a waist circumference less than half their height before even considering drugs for lifestyle diseases, like hypertension, diabetes and atherosclerosis. Political disaster. If he did so, the highways of Quebec would be instantly blockaded by pig and dairy farmers. All fast food franchise owners, restaurant owners, junk food producers, their employees and their families would never vote Liberal.

There is not  a shred of evidence that spending more on drugs for the diseases of lifestyle to which he refers translates into less spending on other treatment for these diseases.

So why does the Minister like more drug sales in Quebec and everywhere else? Maybe it’s because drug marketing is the largest industry on the west half of the island of Montreal where there are innumerable drug marketing agencies employing thousands of people funded by profits from Big Pharma. If you run a gigantic bureaucracy like the Ministry of Health and Social Services you need a lot of money and all that tax revenue from drug profits helps your Ministry to get bigger and bigger and gives you more power. So buying more drugs is a form of hidden taxation with no significant benefits in most cases. The Minister wouldn’t dare say that most of the expensive drugs are unnecessary and lifestyle change is essential. He would be reducing his own power and making a lot of voters on the West Island, a stronghold of Liberal power, very unhappy.

ledevoir-pic-bolduc-quote1

Posted in cholesterol, death, drugs, statins | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

AstraZeneca pays medical students

Posted by Colin Rose on April 13, 2009

So it has finally come to this. It is not enough that drug dealers fund medical school faculties, now they are paying medical students. Anyone who thinks this donation to a bursary fund by one of the most aggressive drug marketers is not going to give them a lot of influence over drug policy in New Brunswick is very naive. Insidiously, the entire medical profession is becoming a marketing branch of drug dealers.

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Bursary program launched for med students

Cindy Wilson/Telegraph-Journal

Published Friday April 3rd, 2009

newbrunswick-az-photo

SAINT JOHN – The first donation Thursday to a new trust fund will allow two medical students to receive four years of free education at the Saint John medical school.

Mark Jones, president and CEO of AstraZeneca, said he hopes his company’s $500,000 donation will help kick-start the New Brunswick Medical Education Trust.

The aim is to raise enough money to pay for the education of 10 students per year. In return, the students will have to promise to stay and work in the province.

The New Brunswick Medical Education Trust was established Thursday afternoon when AstraZeneca Canada Inc., a pharmaceutical company, donated the first $500,000 toward the bursary program.

“The hardest donation to get is the first one,” said Mark Jones, president and CEO of AstraZeneca.

“Once you have somebody, it’s easier to bring others in. We just hope this donation will help kick-start this program.”

Dr. Donald Craig, chairman of the Medical Staff Organization of Zone 2, Regional Health Authority B, said the $500,000 was the first step in raising $15 million for a sustainable bursary program.

Craig said the money will be invested and the return on investment will pay the tuition for 10 medical students each year to study in the province

“We will pay the tuition for four years of medical school. We will probably find them summer work. If they are married, we will try to find their spouses jobs and in return we are asking for a service contract,” Craig said.

Craig said it has not been determined how long the bursary students will be required to live and work in the province.

He said the return on investment for the $500,000 donation received Thursday will pay for the tuition for two medical students who will study in New Brunswick when the medical program opens in September 2010.

Craig said business, governments and citizens will be asked to contribute to the trust and eventually enough money will be raised to fund 10 students per year.

“I hope the donation encourages other pharmaceutical companies. I hope it encourages communities in the province and governments provincially and federally, big industry, big business. We are going to be looking at all those aspects for help,” Craig said.

The trust was established by the Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation and the Medical Staff Organization as a way to attract and retain doctors in the province.

On Thursday, Jones presented the cheque to the trust at an event held at the Regional Hospital.

When he was approached about the project, he said, the story of the challenges New Brunswick has faced in setting up the medical school and recruiting doctors was compelling and he wanted to be part of the effort toward change.

Health Minister Mike Murphy was on hand for the announcement and said there will be more announcements to come.

Murphy said Nova Scotia receives $150 million in research each year while New Brunswick gets $9 million for clinical trials. He said, in time, he believes the province can “outstrip and out rival Nova Scotia.”

“You will hear from the government and myself in several weeks with some exciting news about an initiative the government wants to put together,” Murphy said. “There is a necessity to have an infrastructure base and to have researchers here in Saint John, because as we know those who are going to teach in medicine will want to teach, practise and research. We are working very hard on that.”

Posted in drugs, ethics, professionalism, 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
BY TOM BLACKWELL
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 »

OBSTAT: Doctors bribed to prescribe statins in Quebec

Posted by Colin Rose on March 13, 2009

Here is a classic example of drug marketing a disguised as a “research study” funded by two drug dealers, Pfizer and Astra-Zeneca, with $1.2 million to give $100 to any doctor who starts a statin in ANY patient for no reason in particular. The goal is to find out why the patients STOP taking their expensive drugs, not why they really NEED them in the first place. With 4500 enrolled “patients” $450,000 will be spent by drug dealers on direct bribes to doctors. If each statin pill conservatively costs $2 per day, in just one year, they will have sold $3.3 million worth of drugs, an almost 400% yearly return on the investment including payments to the doctors. Over three years of the “study” the drug dealers will  have sold about $10 million worth of drugs to people, the vast majority of whom will never have had a heart attack or stroke and in whom, “statins have not been shown to provide an overall health benefit.” And the cost of this study will likely be classified as  “research”  by the drug dealers, not a marketing expense. All perfectly legal. Isn’t the drug business wonderful?

Needless to say, the lead “investigator” in OBSTAT, Jacques LeLorier, has a long history of personal payments from multiple manufacturers of statins. Here is a list from a publication in 2004. “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.” Is it any wonder he wants to keep any- and everyone on a statin for life?

All you unemployed Canadians will be thrilled to learn that this drug marketing is being supported by $584,250 from your income taxes via the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, if and when you get a job.

If you think it is unethical and unacceptable for doctors in Quebec or anywhere to accept money from drug dealers contact the Collège des Médecins du Québec. The licensing bodies will only take action if the public complains.

obstatletter

obstat1

obstat2

Here is the justification of OBSTAT for which Lelorier et al have received $584,000 of taxpayer money at a time of large cutbacks in funding to basic research. I will translate the most interesting part of the description.

” The premature cessation of this medication [statins] that most of patients must take for life can have disastrous consequences.”

There is no reason anyone has to take a statin for life. Atherosclerosis is NOT caused by a deficiency of a statin. A non-atherogenic lifestyle is much more efficacious that statins in preventing and treating atherosclerosis. The only disastrous consequence of stopping statins is to the profits of the drug dealers.

obstat-publicmoney

Posted in ethics, professionalism, statins | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Harvard Medical School in Ethics Quandary

Posted by Colin Rose on March 3, 2009

March 3, 2009

BOSTON — In a first-year pharmacology class at Harvard Medical School, Matt Zerden grew wary as the professor promoted the benefits of cholesterol drugs and seemed to belittle a student who asked about side effects.

Mr. Zerden later discovered something by searching online that he began sharing with his classmates. The professor was not only a full-time member of the Harvard Medical faculty, but a paid consultant to 10 drug companies, including five makers of cholesterol treatments.

“I felt really violated,” Mr. Zerden, now a fourth-year student, recently recalled. “Here we have 160 open minds trying to learn the basics in a protected space, and the information he was giving wasn’t as pure as I think it should be.”

Mr. Zerden’s minor stir four years ago has lately grown into a full-blown movement by more than 200 Harvard Medical School students and sympathetic faculty, intent on exposing and curtailing the industry influence in their classrooms and laboratories, as well as in Harvard’s 17 affiliated teaching hospitals and institutes.

They say they are concerned that the same money that helped build the school’s world-class status may in fact be hurting its reputation and affecting its teaching.

The students argue, for example, that Harvard should be embarrassed by the F grade it recently received from the American Medical Student Association, a national group that rates how well medical schools monitor and control drug industry money.

Harvard Medical School’s peers received much higher grades, ranging from the A for the University of Pennsylvania, to B’s received by Stanford, Columbia and New York University, to the C for Yale.

Harvard has fallen behind, some faculty and administrators say, because its teaching hospitals are not owned by the university, complicating reform; because the dean is fairly new and his predecessor was such an industry booster that he served on a pharmaceutical company board; and because a crackdown, simply put, could cost it money or faculty.

Further, the potential embarrassments — a Senate investigation of several medical professors, the F grade, a new state law effective July 1 requiring Massachusetts doctors to disclose corporate gifts over $50 — are only now adding to pressure for change.

The dean, Dr. Jeffrey S. Flier, who says he wants Harvard to catch up with the best practices at other leading medical schools, recently announced a 19-member committee to re-examine his school’s conflict-of-interest policies. The group, which includes three students, is to meet in private on Thursday.

Advising the group will be Dr. David Korn, a former dean of the Stanford Medical School who started work at Harvard about four months ago as vice provost for research. Last year he helped the Association of American Medical Colleges draft a model conflict-of-interest policy for medical schools.

The Harvard students have already secured a requirement that all professors and lecturers disclose their industry ties in class — a blanket policy that has been adopted by no other leading medical school. (One Harvard professor’s disclosure in class listed 47 company affiliations.)

“Harvard needs to live up to its name,” said Kirsten Austad, 24, a first-year Harvard Medical student who is one of the movement’s leaders. “We are really being indoctrinated into a field of medicine that is becoming more and more commercialized.”

David Tian, 24, a first-year Harvard Medical student, said: “Before coming here, I had no idea how much influence companies had on medical education. And it’s something that’s purposely meant to be under the table, providing information under the guise of education when that information is also presented for marketing purposes.”

The students say they worry that pharmaceutical industry scandals in recent years — including some criminal convictions, billions of dollars in fines, proof of bias in research and publishing and false marketing claims — have cast a bad light on the medical profession. And they criticize Harvard as being less vigilant than other leading medical schools in monitoring potential financial conflicts by faculty members.

Dr. Flier says that the Harvard Medical faculty may lead the nation in receiving money from industry, as well as government and charities, and he does not want to tighten the spigot. “One entirely appropriate source, if done properly, is industrial funds,” Dr. Flier said in an interview.

And school officials see corporate support for their faculty as all the more crucial, as the university endowment has lost 22 percent of its value since last July and the recession has caused philanthropic contributors to retrench. The school said it was unable to provide annual measures of the money flow to its faculty, beyond the $8.6 million that pharmaceutical companies contributed last year for basic science research and the $3 million for continuing education classes on campus. Most of the money goes to professors at the Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals, and the dean’s office does not keep track of the total.

But no one disputes that many individual Harvard Medical faculty members receive tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through industry consulting and speaking fees. Under the school’s disclosure rules, about 1,600 of 8,900 professors and lecturers have reported to the dean that they or a family member had a financial interest in a business related to their teaching, research or clinical care. The reports show 149 with financial ties to Pfizer and 130 with Merck.

The rules, though, do not require them to report specific amounts received for speaking or consulting, other than broad indications like “more than $30,000.” Some faculty who conduct research have limits of $30,000 in stock and $20,000 a year in fees. But there are no limits on companies’ making outright gifts to faculty — free meals, tickets, trips or the like.

Other blandishments include industry-endowed chairs like the three Harvard created with $8 million from sleep research companies; faculty prizes like the $50,000 award named after Bristol-Myers Squibb, and sponsorships like Pfizer’s $1 million annual subsidy for 20 new M.D.’s in a two-year program to learn clinical investigation and pursue Harvard Master of Medical Science degrees, including classes taught by Pfizer scientists.

Dr. Flier, who became dean 17 months ago, previously received a $500,000 research grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb. He also consulted for three Cambridge biotechnology companies, but says that those relationships have ended and that he has accepted no new industry affiliations.

That is in contrast to his predecessor as dean, Dr. Joseph B. Martin. Harvard’s rules allowed Dr. Martin to sit on the board of the medical products company Baxter International for 5 of the 10 years he led the medical school, supplementing his university salary with up to $197,000 a year from Baxter, according to company filings.

Dr. Martin is still on the medical faculty and is founder and co-chairman of the Harvard NeuroDiscovery Center, which researches degenerative diseases, and actively solicits industry money to do so. Dr. Martin declined any comment.

A smaller rival faction among Harvard’s 750 medical students has circulated a petition signed by about 100 people that calls for “continued interaction between medicine and industry at Harvard Medical School.”

A leader of the group, Vijay Yanamadala, 22, said, “To say that because these industry sources are inherently biased, physicians should never listen to them, is wrong.”

Encouraging them is Dr. Thomas P. Stossel, a Harvard Medical professor who has served on advisory boards for Merck, Biogen Idec and Dyax, and has written widely on academic-industry ties. “I think if you look at it with intellectual honesty, you see industry interaction has produced far more good than harm,” Dr. Stossel said. “Harvard absolutely could get more from industry but I think they’re very skittish. There’s a huge opportunity we ought to mine.”

Brian Fuchs, 26, a second-year student from Queens, credited drug companies with great medical discoveries. “It’s not a problem,” he said, pointing out a classroom window to a 12-story building nearby. “In fact, Merck is right there.”

Merck built a corporate research center in 2004 across the street from Harvard’s own big new medical research and class building. And Merck underwrites plenty of work on the Harvard campus, including the immunology lab run by Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher — a professor who also sits on the board of the drug maker Bristol-Myers Squibb, which paid her nearly $270,000 in 2007.

Dr. Glimcher says industry money is not only appropriate but necessary. “Without the support of the private sector, we would not have been able to develop what I call our ‘bone team’ in our lab,” she said at a recent student and faculty forum to discuss industry relationships. Merck is counting on her team to help come up with a successor to Fosamax, the formerly $3 billion-a-year bone drug that went generic last year. But Dr. Marcia Angell, a faculty member and former editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, is among the professors who argue that industry profit motives do not correspond to the scientific aims of academic medicine and that much of the financing needs to be not only disclosed, but banned. Too many medical schools, she says, have struck a “Faustian bargain” with pharmaceutical companies.

“If a school like Harvard can’t behave itself,” Dr. Angell said, “who can?”

Posted in cholesterol, drugs, professionalism, statins | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Atherogenic Football Diet

Posted by Colin Rose on February 1, 2009

Who are the coaches and “nutritionists” that advise football players to eat atherogenic, obesogenic , diabetogenic, hypertensogenic diets just so they can trample the opposing team? They should be banned from the game.
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By Madison Park
CNN

(CNN) — Football players guzzle protein shakes, down steaks and lift weights. They train and gain weight, hoping to build mass under the careful eye of the team’s coaches, nutritionists and gurus.

“It was a scripted lifestyle where they tell you how to eat, how to take care of yourself, how much body fat you should have,” said Chuck Smith, a former defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers.

But once their glory days are over, they have the same problem as millions of other Americans: They’re fat.

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“When I trained, they told us to eat all you can eat,” said Smith, who played in Super Bowl XXXIII with the Falcons. “Drink beer, eat peanut butter to gain weight. All those eating habits were great for football. But when I got done, no question I had to make adjustments.”

Without scheduled practices, meals, and games on Sunday, it became tougher to keep in shape.

When players were younger, they had the opposite problem.

Many tried to gain weight, believing that bigger is better. But as they age and retire from football, many are seeing that “big” is causing problems.

Smith, who weighed 274 pounds during his professional days, often had four plates of food in one sitting “to keep my weight up.” After retirement, Smith had to unlearn those habits.

“I had to retrain my thinking,” he said. “I don’t need to be full. I don’t have to stuff myself to feel comfortable. That took a long time. You stuff yourself to gain weight, then you get out of shape.”

Smith learned he had high cholesterol (he had to take Lipitor), and his blood pressure was climbing, too.

“I had to take the bon-bons out of my mouth,” said Smith, 39. “I had to empower myself. Strength coaches, nutritionists aren’t going to take care of me. Guys have to empower themselves to take care of themselves.”

Smith is now a fitness trainer at Defensive Line Incorporated, where he works with football players. Through healthy foods and workouts, he trimmed his body fat, lowered his cholesterol and shed 50 pounds.

Some players understand the risks, said Dr. Archie Roberts, a former National Football League quarterback and retired cardiac surgeon.

“They understand that if they stay 250, 300, 350 pounds as they age, that’s going to shorten their life span and cause them more health problems,” he said. “Others don’t get it and they’re unable — for whatever reason — to lose the weight, and they will suffer the consequences, just like anybody else in the general population carrying too much weight.”

Diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol are all cardiovascular risks associated with obesity.

Roberts heads the Living Heart Foundation, a nonprofit promoting health for former football players. For five years, he has conducted research to determine whether former football players are at added risk for heart problems (they’re not).

After left tackle Bob Whitfield retired from the New York Giants in 2007, he gained 20 pounds. The 37-year-old Pro-Bowler is trying to lose 40 pounds, which would bring him to 290 pounds, the lowest he has weighed since ninth grade.

“You don’t want to be the person at the buffet and people look at you crazy,” Whitfield said. “Overall, you want to have a healthier lifestyle. It doesn’t mean you want to be muscled up. … I don’t want to be the biggest man in the room anymore.”

Looking back at his career, Whitfield doesn’t think his size made him a better player.

“When that mass gets too heavy, you decline, you can’t accelerate, you don’t have as much force,” he said. “I never felt that being bigger gives you a competitive advantage. I put it on flexibility, the explosive nature of your movements.”

Several decades ago, 300-pound players were a rarity; now, the league has more than 500, Roberts said.

Decades ago, the Washington Redskins’ offensive line was known for its size and dominance.

“They had the largest line in the NFL, called the Hogs, 20 years ago,” said Dr. Ben Levine, director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, and professor of medicine. “If you go back and look at their size, they’re about the size of the running backs today. The impression was these guys were massive, huge. They couldn’t play in the NFL today. They’re too small.”

Smith said he wasn’t forced to gain weight, but perceptions exist on how a player should look based on his position. That “needs to change in the NFL,” he said.

Being faster, stronger and more aggressive is more important than size, Smith said. He drew an analogy to airline stewardesses: “We want her to be tall and slim so she can walk down the aisles. Now is there really a difference between a 135-pound woman and a 150? Well, maybe a little bit different in the hips, but the same effectiveness happens when she does her job.”

He added, “I’m a classic example that size doesn’t matter.”

But that’s not what young, aspiring players think.

Jackie Buell, director of sports nutrition at Ohio State University, said she encounters players who seek to gain as much as 30 pounds by next season and seldom care whether it’s fat or muscle.

Buell’s research examined 70 college linemen and found that nearly half have metabolic syndrome, meaning that the players have at least three of the five risk factors of developing diabetes and heart disease. Her next project is to explore whether junior high and high school football players are developing metabolic syndrome.

“My fear is, these young men have this metabolic profile, what happens when they stop working out intensively?” Buell said. 

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