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Posted August 6, 2011: by Bill Sardi
No one knows now whether Pfizer, which is panned as “the world largest research-based pharmaceutical company,” will have a more storied past or a more storied future. That’s because sometimes the downfall of such a huge success story in American business may be more gripping than an account of how Pfizer developed and marketed so many blockbuster drugs. The $68 billion drug giant is headed for a momentous downfall, and this is sure to gain continued attention in business news columns worldwide in the coming months ahead.
Pfizer’s treasure chests of new drugs are now empty. No genie is about to uncork a surprise molecule from its R&D pipeline that will generate billions of dollars to counter anticipated losses as Pfizer’s prized drug patents expire.
Pfizer’s CEO, who was once known as the maven who re-invented McDonald’s hamburger franchises, was commissioned to re-invent Pfizer. When Jeffrey Kindler first became CEO at Pfizer nearly a decade ago he faced what is tantamount to a corporate spill over a waterfall as its prize drug, Lipitor, faced eventual patent expiration. But that was years away.
Its nine years now and Kindler couldn’t find another blockbuster like Lipitor even though Pfizer has other blockbuster drugs (whose patents are also about to expire). Pfizer can now hear the rush of the water as it approaches a plunge down patent expiration waterfall. The Lipitor drug patent will expire in 2012. It’s going to be an event worth observing in the business world. Pfizer is weakly countering that it will sell Lipitor direct to consumers once its patent expires.
The problem is the Pfizer researchers who bemoaned Kindler’s R&D cutbacks and the other executives in the company who complained about his brusque management style haven’t any better ideas how to save this pharmaceutical giant-among-giants than outsiders. Kindler wasn’t ousted over an R&D pipeline that failed to deliver new blockbuster drugs, he was ousted by insiders who felt he was manhandling them. A gang of three Pfizer board members who met with Kindler to oust him were a former Congressman, a former deputy secretary of Health & Human Services and an ex-CEO of a major corporation. Kindler couldn’t prevail in the in-house revolt that was taking place at Pfizer. On short notice board members met with Kindler in an airport meeting room and two hours later he had been unceremoniously ousted as CEO at the world’s largest pharmaceutical company. Fortune magazine captures the leadership overthrow at Pfizer in its landmark report entitled: “Inside Pfizer’s Palace Coup.”
But the Fortune report missed yet a bigger story. The problems go beyond Pfizer to an immoral industry that has captured and manipulated the marketplace in what could be called fascist pharmacology.
Fascism fashions a totalitarian regime where business controls government to the point where there is no consumer choice, just people who are forced to use your company’s products by mandate. What is good for Pfizer is good for America has been the dictum.
All a company has to do is get government to mandate their product. For Pfizer, national cholesterol guidelines as sanctioned by public health authorities would do.
For example, when government mandates children must undergo vaccination to enter school — that is market fascism. Paying off politicians to the point where ineffective drugs like Lipitor get approved and make billions of dollars is another example.
Wait a minute. Did I say Lipitor, the world’s best-selling drug, is ineffective? How could Pfizer fool millions of people and hundreds of thousands of doctors worldwide who prescribe and take their pill?
It’s easy – fear. Physicians worldwide stare directly into patients’ eyes and tell them they will die of a heart attack if they don’t take Lipitor. From that moment forward most patients are fearful of withdrawing from Lipitor, and have no gumption to stand up to their doctor even when their body is raked with painful side effects from this pill.
Another aspect of the successful marketing of a statin drug like Lipitor is that they can be self evaluated by a number, in this instance, a cholesterol blood test. A declining cholesterol number buoys patients with false confidence they are healthy and won’t experience a heart attack. Statin drugs interfere with production of cholesterol in the liver (which is why they are liver toxins) and most certainly will cause circulating cholesterol numbers to drop. But are patients any healthier and will they live longer taking these pills?
Using the imprimatur of government, that Lipitor is FDA approved, Pfizer and other statin drug makers prompt patients to never doubt cholesterol-lowering pills even though they won’t likely help them avert a mortal heart attack. Most patients never think twice about taking doctor-prescribed statin drugs. The public is more anxious about overdosing on vitamin pills than it is statin drugs.
After all, cholesterol phobia is so ingrained into American culture, anyone who dares to question whether cholesterol is the cause of mortal heart attacks must be an eccentric kook. The local grocery store reconfirms this misdirection with many low cholesterol food choices. And doctors must know statin drugs are for real, after all, they take statin drugs too, don’t they?
But no small-time authority, Harvard professor Dr. John Abramson, author of Overdosed America, documents that the ten largest clinical trials of statin cholesterol-lowering drugs do not reveal any significant reduction in mortality for coronary heart disease for statin drugs.
It’s not that Lipitor doesn’t reduce circulating cholesterol levels, it does. And it’s not that it doesn’t help avert a heart attack, it does. But it doesn’t prevent sudden mortal heart attacks, the most dreaded of health fears, and so many patients (71) have to take Lipitor just to avert one non-mortal heart attack.
Since heart attacks maybe only occur in 3 of 100 adults over age 50 during a five-year period, it takes time for studies to reveal how well drugs like statins work. A 2008 entitled “Do Cholesterol Drugs Do Any Good?” published in Business Week says statin drugs prevent a non-mortal heart attack in 1 of 70-250 healthy statin drugs users over a 5-year period. That’s about 0.4-1.5% efficacy, however among high-risk patients the effect is greater. But understand, very few statin drug users will actually experience a heart attack over the short term. Pfizer and other statin drug makers quote a 30% risk reduction with statin drugs, but that is a relative number.
How did modern medicine get to this point? Well, it began with the approval of the first statin cholesterol-lowering drug, Mevacor, in 1987. But that drug wasn’t potent enough to significantly lower cholesterol or mortality. This was well known within the hallways of medical schools and by the FDA, an agency which chose not to remove these ineffective statin drugs from the market. A report published in 1994 in the British journal Lancet said “drug therapy for high cholesterol has remained controversial mainly because of insufficient clinical trial evidence for improved survival.”
So more potent higher-dose statin drugs were developed that did in fact reduce cholesterol 30 or even 40 percent and reduced the risk for a heart attack and mortality among high-risk individuals. But should otherwise healthy adults be prescribed a statin drug simply because their cholesterol number is high?
The problem is, circulating cholesterol, which is what is measured in a cholesterol blood test, is not the static plaque that hardens within blood vessel walls and which can cause a clot to form and block the delivery of oxygenated blood to the heart.
Cholesterol rise in middle age is a natural response to declining sex hormone levels. The body responds to this change by up-regulating the production of cholesterol in the liver in order to maintain sex hormone levels and male and female sex drive and prolong fertility and virility. Cholesterol is required to produce estrogen and testosterone.
One wonders if the whole campaign to lower cholesterol isn’t actually a covert campaign to control population size. One dated study says no, statin drugs do not reduce sperm counts in males. But that study was conducted in the early era when statin drugs were less potent. Subsequent animal studies say statin drugs do in fact reduce male fertility. Most certainly, fertility clinics weren’t a part of the American landscape in the period prior to statin drugs as they are today.
Modern medicine treats this middle-age change by prescribing drugs that are toxic to the liver and reduce synthesis of cholesterol. It would be more appropriate to restore sex hormones. In a startling study, the provision of individually prescribed (non-standard dose) replacement hormones (hormone precursors such as oral pregnenolone and DHEA, and topical estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) to 20 middle-aged patients remarkably reduced circulating cholesterol in 100% of subjects, from a mean of 263 to 187 total cholesterol.
What if you were told that statin drugs deplete certain essential nutrients in your body needed to maintain health, namely coenzyme Q10, selenium and vitamin D? Once informed of this, would you take a statin drug?
While cardiologists cast a blind eye at potential liver and muscle side effects induced by statin cholesterol-lowering drugs, natural health advocates suggest coenzyme Q10 supplementation to avoid the potential side effects of muscle degeneration (myopathy) associated with these drugs. In fact, coenzyme Q10 supplementation (100 mg/day) has been shown to reduce the severity of muscle pain among statin drug users by 40%. However, there is more to this story than C0-Q10.
For some time now it has been noted in the medical literature that the pattern of side effects associated with statin drugs resembles selenium deficiency. Statin drugs have a negative effect upon selenium proteins which does seem to explain many of the enigmatic effects of statin drugs. The underlying biochemical mechanisms for this are now well described.
Another fact that should also be called to attention is that reduced production of selenium-linked proteins in the body is directly related to genetic muscle disease, similar to myopathy produced by statin drugs.
Researchers in Germany now clearly show that statin drugs commonly reduce a selenium-activated antioxidant which causes abnormalities in muscle tissue and liver and results in symptoms of muscle pain and elevated liver enzymes.
While advocates for statin drugs point to very low side effect rates (less than 1%), in fact approximately 20% of patients treated with statins experience elevated liver enzymes and high-dose statin therapy results in muscle pain among 10% of patients.
The primary mechanism producing these liver abnormalities is now identified as statin drug reduction of a protective antioxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase. This antioxidant is produced naturally within the body from precursors vitamin E and the trace mineral selenium. Statin cholesterol-lowering drugs have also repeatedly been shown to decrease blood levels of vitamin E.
All statin drugs reduce glutathione peroxidase activity in liver cells at typically prescribed doses. Liver cells then become more vulnerable to threats from other toxins. These abnormalities are reversed by the provision of selenium.
The protective role of selenium in heart disease goes underappreciated. It is now recognized that it is oxidized (hardened) cholesterol deposits that present problems in the circulatory system and selenium produces an anti-oxidant enzyme called glutathione peroxidase which inhibits oxidation of cholesterol, particularly LDL cholesterol. In fact, the human body attempts to up-regulate the production of glutathione peroxidase as circulating cholesterol levels rise in an attempt to prevent oxidized cholesterol.
In rodents, the provision of supplemental selenium diminishes oxidation among cholesterol-fed animals.
However, this subject gets a bit confusing when studies show that higher blood concentrations of selenium are associated with elevated levels of total and LDL cholesterol in humans. One interpretation of this finding is that selenium protects the liver, which is where most cholesterol is produced, and when the liver works better, cholesterol levels rise. If selenium activated glutathione peroxidase minimizes oxidized cholesterol, rendering it harmless, why be so over-concerned about cholesterol numbers?
The bottom line is to prevent mortality from heart disease. Indeed, among acute coronary syndrome patients, circulating selenium levels have been measured and patients with the highest levels of selenium exhibited a relative 62% reduction in cardiac death. The concentration of selenium in the blood stream is related to future cardiovascular-related death among these acute patients.
Add vitamin D to the list of required nutrients when taking statins drugs. In fact, statin drugs don’t work without this sunshine vitamin. Researchers in Spain recently reported that patients who take statin drugs and are vitamin D-deficient experience little or no cholesterol-lowering effect while taking statins. But if their vitamin D levels are normal, patients experience a good response to statin drugs. Supplemental vitamin D is suggested for statin drug users. You’re not likely to ever hear about this from physicians or pharmaceutical companies.
It’s not like this writer is on a vendetta and the only critic of statin drugs. In addition to the aforementioned Dr. John Abramson, John Carey, writing for Business Week magazine in 2008, revealed that it takes 70-250 patients taking Lipitor to prevent one non-mortal heart attack.
In Business Week, James M Wright MD, a participant in drafting cholesterol guidelines, said statin drugs can be life-saving for patients who already have suffered heart attacks. But as the landmark report in Business Week said: “Wright had a surprise when he looked at the data for the majority of patients who don’t have heart disease. He found no benefit in people over the age of 65, no matter how much their cholesterol declines, and no benefit in women of any age. He did see a small reduction in the number of heart attacks for middle-aged men taking statins in clinical trials. But even for these men, there was no overall reduction in total deaths or illnesses requiring hospitalization—despite big reductions in ‘bad’ cholesterol. ‘Most people are taking something with no chance of benefit and a risk of harm,’ says Wright.”
There is also long-term population data to back up skepticism over the value of statin drugs like Lipitor. Does cholesterol-reduction save lives? Recently researchers in Japan studied 12,334 healthy adults aged 40-69 years for almost 12 years. Cholesterol levels below 160 milligrams per deciliter increased the risk for death 149% and high cholesterol, above 340 miligrams per deciliter, was not a risk factor. In fact, more than a decade ago it was known that cholesterol levels below 160 are associated with an increase in non-cardiac mortality.
Decades after the first cholesterol-lowering drug was introduced, recent studies concede that “optimal target levels for cholesterol and blood pressure are not clear yet.” This is difficult to believe with the major thrust of modern preventive medicine being cholesterol reduction.
Cholesterol levels gradually rise from age 20 to 65, but decline slightly thereafter in men and level off in women. Elevated cholesterol is common among senior adults – – 61% of women between age 65 and 74 have total cholesterol levels over 240. Increased blood cholesterol levels at an advanced age are less of a risk factor. In fact, by age 75 the predictive value of cholesterol for a future heart attack has disappeared. Researchers even concede that “high cholesterol is associated with longevity.” The use of cholesterol-lowering drugs among 80 and 90-year old adults with no established coronary heart disease should be called into question.
Albeit, a study of Japanese centenarians found they had higher total cholesterol are associated with better physical and brain function. This has been called the “centenarian paradox.”
Harumi Okuyama of the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences in Nagoya, Japan, wrote a report in 2005 entitled “Need to change direction of cholesterol-related medication – a problem of great urgency.”
Dr. Okuyama said careful examination of data showed that reduction of saturated fats in the diet is ineffective in reducing total cholesterol and “increases mortality rates from coronary heart disease and all causes” and that “high total cholesterol is not a causative factor of coronary heart disease for individuals who do not have a family history of same.”
Dr. Okuyama said the prevalent intake of omega-6 oils (corn oil) in the American diet over consumption of omega-3 oils (fish oil) favors inflammation and clotting episodes that result in mortal heart attacks.
Dr. Okuyama, writing in the Japanese Pharmaceutical Society Journal pleaded for an “urgent change in the direction of current cholesterol-related medication for the prevention of coronary heart disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality.”
But are doctors reading any of this? How about patients? How about government health authorities? Are statin drug makers like Pfizer living a lie?
Modern medicine has been driven by self interest in recent times. Other less costly and less problematic methodologies to reduce cholesterol are ignored in favor of the statin drugs. There is no bragging of a blockbuster drug that saves billions in healthcare costs. The objective of pharmaceutical R&D departments is to create man-made molecules that can be patented and taken to market. But are there any less costly alternatives to statin drugs?
One is vitamin C. Beginning in the 1960s Emil Ginter PhD of Bratislava, Slovakia, who is the most prolific vitamin C researcher in the world, first described how animals, such as guinea pigs that do not naturally produce vitamin C in their liver as most other animals, experience a gradual accumulation of cholesterol in their blood serum and liver. If pet guinea pigs are not provided vitamin C-fortified chow they will prematurely succumb to heart disease.
The reason for this is that vitamin C deficiency results in a decrease in the conversion rate of cholesterol to bile in the liver. Cholesterol not only accumulates in the arteries but also the gall bladder, forming stones. Vitamin C, widely known as an antioxidant, actually serves to induce oxidation of cholesterol and its conversion to bile, which facilitates cholesterol’s exit from the blood circulation. Provision of high-dose supplemental vitamin C to guinea pigs decreases cholesterol concentration in the blood plasma.
Unlike most other animals, humans (like guinea pigs) are totally dependent upon the diet for vitamin C. Dr. Ginter showed that the provision of 500-1000 milligrams of vitamin C per day significantly lowers cholesterol concentration in the blood circulation. Americans consume only about 110 mg of vitamin C from their daily diet and often no more than an additional 60-120 mg from common multivitamins.
This effect can be enhanced by the addition of various bile acid sequestrants such as apple pectin.
The cholesterol-lowering effect of vitamin C is most evident among those who have low vitamin C levels, such as smokers. The effect lasts for 6 weeks following cessation of supplemental vitamin C.
But vitamin C is forgotten science. It is not likely to be mentioned except in derogatory terms inside the hallways at Pfizer.
Another forgotten heart cure is chondroitin sulfate, a dietary supplement often used for joint problems. It was Dr. Lester Morrison, then Director and Research Professor, Institute for Arteriosclerosis Research, Loma Linda University, School of Medicine and author of a scientific textbook entitled Coronary Heart Disease and the Mucopolysaccharides (1974, Charles C. Thomas)
Dr. Morrison provided compelling evidence in the 1960s that heart and blood vessel disease could be reversed and prevented with natural molecules, particularly chondroitin sulfate. This was over 20 years prior to the advent of the first cholesterol-reducing statin drug, Mevacor (1987).
Dr. Morrison’s research was published in no less than 8 different medical journals. He conceived of the idea that gelatinous material, then known as mucopolysaccharides, today known as glycosaminoglycans, could heal damaged hearts and arteries. His life work involved chondroitin sulfate, a molecule that is a normal component of the connective tissue in the body. Dr. Morrison called it “the glue of life.”
He noted that chondroitin is the “coronary artery’s first line of defense against invasion by foreign substances,” such as cholesterol, bacteria and tumor cells. Chondroitin contributes to the elasticity of the blood vessels.
Here are the startling results of his first human studies:
|IMPACT OF CHONDROITIN — HEART ATTACK PREVENTION
Heart attacks among patients over 6-year period
|60 patients||60 patients||60 patients||60 patients|
|Heart attack: fatal- with chondroitin||Heart attack/ fatalno chondroitin||Nonfatal heart attack-with chondroitin||Nonfatal heart attack-no chondroitin|
|4350% Reduction||14||0 Total (100%) Risk Reduction||10|
|Between 1942 and 1955 Dr. Morrison treated 134 patients with chondroitin
“The results were more than good, they were marvelous.”
|Group 1: coronary arteriosclerotic heart disease||74% improved|
|Group 2: arteriosclerosis of the brain arteries||77% improved|
|Group 3: hardening of the arteries of the legs||80% improved|
More recent studies confirm Dr. Morrison’s earlier findings, that chondroitin sulfate is important in healing following a heart attack. Yet nothing is said of Dr. Morrison’s incredible discoveries decades prior.
Dietary supplements are relegated to health promotion, cannot be said to prevent, cure or treat any disease (says the FDA), and if they do, they will be declared a drug (and sold at a higher price)! (Ah, more evidence of fascist pharmacology!)
Whatever pact pharmaceutical companies may have made with the devil in exchange for the fortunes that blockbuster drugs bring, the selling of cholesterol-lowering pills has been a magnanimous success story. The major way this has been accomplished is that patients don’t pay much for the pills if they are diagnosed with a circulatory problem and deemed to be at risk for arterial disease or a heart attack. If patients had to pay for these drugs out-of-pocket, it’s unlikely many statin drug prescriptions would be filled.
According to the official government guidelines from the National Cholesterol Education Program, 40 million more Americans should be taking statin drugs. These guidelines were fashioned largely by physicians with ties to pharmaceutical companies. These cholesterol guidelines are part of that fascist medicine that I allude to throughout this report. Just get physician groups and government health agencies to establish this guideline and it would give life insurance companies a mandate to insist their clients take statin drugs like Lipitor or face higher life insurance premiums or even policy cancellation. It’s a coercive system.
By the time Pfizer got around to submitting a new cholesterol-controlling drug that could possibly replace Lipitor, the FDA was getting smarter. No longer would it accept a marker like cholesterol as an end point in itself. Cholesterol control would not be sufficient to gain approval. Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies would have to show its drugs actually save lives. If a drug intended to save lives was only lowering a meaningless marker and not mortality, it wouldn’t gain approval.
So Pfizer’s CEO Kindler did take a stab at besting Lipitor. As Fortune magazine described it: “The biggest disappointment was torcetrapib, a paradigm-shifting medication aimed at boosting ‘good cholesterol.’ Pfizer had spent $800 million to develop the drug and another $90 million on a plant expansion to manufacture the pill.”
Pfizer was heavily committed to torcetrapib and its pre-marketing buildup was growing. But as Fortune magazine explained it, “In November 2006, Kindler declared that torcetrapib ‘will be one of the most important compounds of our generation.’ Two days later it was history. Ongoing trials revealed that patients taking the drug suffered a 60% increase in deaths compared with a control group. After being roused early on a Saturday morning with a call about the calamitous results, Kindler acted decisively, immediately canceling the drug.”
While executives within Pfizer led the charge to remove him because of his demeanor within the company, one wonders if Kindler, who was recruited from the fast-food industry and had no background in pharmacology, had been misled by these very same malcontents? No wonder he was accused of interrogating instead of cajoling them.
What pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer have learned is that they can run faster than the FDA, make billions, then pay back their profits if they get caught in their questionable marketing schemes and never feel any financial pain.
One example is when Pfizer and its subsidiaries Pharmacia & Upjohn Company were slapped with a record $2.3 billion in fines for illegal drug promotion which included bribing doctors with free golf, massages and trips. It is the largest health care fraud settlement in the history of the Department of Justice and originated as a whistleblower lawsuit brought by six Pfizer employees who shared more than $102 million. The stiff penalty was meted out for marketing drugs like Bextra (arthritis), Geodon (psychosis) and Zyvox (antibiotic) for conditions that weren’t approved, resulting in false claims being submitted to Medicare and Medicaid, and for paid kickbacks to physicians to induce them to prescribe.
So is the whole house of pharmaceuticals at Pfizer built on falsehoods? Well, it is doubtful any of these frank revelations by statin drug skeptics ever get mentioned inside Pfizer. There must be some small group at Pfizer or one of its hired consulting firms that monitors what the news media, health professionals and the public think about Pfizer, but the overwhelming grip companies like Pfizer hold over doctors with their marketing muscle is largely why this report is being written. Pharmaceutical companies sponsor more evening network television news programs to run ads that generate more patients who visit doctors’ offices. An article in Ad Age says: “Pharmaceutical advertising, typically aimed at older pill-popping consumers more attuned to aches and pains, is an evening-news mainstay.” Do any network TV news programs dare bite the hand that feeds them?
There is another deception that gets lost in all the data – the dead bodies. There are about 4.3 million Americans taking Lipitor pills. Let’s just say that half of them are high-risk patients who may benefit more from taking a statin drug than healthy adults, and the other half (2,150,000) have no risk factors except elevated cholesterol numbers. And let’s say in this second group 1 in 250 averts a non-mortal heart attack, which would amount to 8600 pill takers who averted an ambulance call.
Now let’s estimate the cost of taking Lipitor for a year is ~$1500 per patient, which would amount to $3.225 billion in these 2+ million patients. So the cost per patient, to prevent those 8600 heart attacks would roughly come to $375,000 per person.
Then let’s say, based upon some cost estimates provided by various sources, that an ambulance ride to the hospital, testing and angioplasty to remove a clot from a coronary artery costs ~$50,000 for a mild heart attack. We’re talking $430 million of care that would be avoided by taking Lipitor pills among healthy adults.
So $3.2 billion for pills to avert $430 million of costs somehow doesn’t drive to a conclusion that statin drugs are cost effective. The bottom line is that among that group of 2,150,000 American adults, let’s say the occurrence of a sudden mortal heart attack is 100 in 100,000, which is a rough number equivalent to today’s rate of sudden mortal heart attacks. That would come to 2150 who lost their lives due to a sudden mortal heart attack they though they would avoid by taking a statin drug like Lipitor.
Maybe it’s too much to think a statin drug like Lipitor would prevent all mortal heart attacks, so let’s estimate a third of these mortal events would be averted by taking Lipitor. The cost per patient rises even higher. Maybe 700 adults will avoid a heart attack over a 5-year period for an annual $3.2 billion tab. That would come to $16 billion of Lipitor pills to save just 700 lives. You get the drift of this. It would cost over $22 million per prevented mortal heart attack, even if statin drugs were shown to prevent drop-dead heart attacks in healthy adults with elevated cholesterol.
This is the sleight of hand of statin drugs. Doctors employ others formulas to come up with cost effectiveness gradients, but they don’t calculate the lost lives, only the cost to care for the survivors. Patients were sternly told they would suffer a mortal heart attack if they didn’t take the pill. None are alive to collect on the failure to deliver on this promise. And few would have bought into the idea had their insurance plan not paid for these over-priced pills.
It appears that way to hit the jackpot at Pfizer now is to become a whistle blower and reveal some of the hidden fabrications that all pharmaceutical companies must have hidden in their closet. As this report is being written, a former Pfizer exec has launched a suit against his former employer over the marketing of Lipitor. The suit alleges Pfizer illegally schemed to boost Lipitor sales by misrepresentation of product labeling and federal cholesterol guidelines, misdirected doctors at educational programs, offered unlawful kickback schemes via product sampling, and promoted other off-label uses for Lipitor. The suit also alleges Pfizer induced physicians to write prescriptions for millions of Americans who were at low cardiac risk for whom lifestyle changes only were recommended in published guidelines. The suit was initially filed in 2004 but has been prolonged and delayed.
Should we pray for the downfall of this American success story, for a company that employs over 100,000 workers, but has climbed to the top in less than admirable ways?
Do Americans even care? Much of what has been reported here has been piecemealed out over the past few years and didn’t roust up anger from any segments of American society — not the AARP, not the FDA, not the Bureau of Consumer Protection, not physicians groups or State Attorneys General. And the citizenry has yet to spit out their statin drugs. One would have thought an army of consumer protectionist attorneys would have brought down Pfizer by now. But you can see, court cases are being delayed indefinitely.
Physicians themselves don’t profit directly from the sale of statin drugs, but TV advertising generates a lot of new patients and doctors receive a consultation fee added to their exam fees when they prescribe Rx drugs. So physicians aren’t impartial. All the shenanigans mentioned in this report could be abruptly stopped if physicians had a moral compass, as the Hippocratic Oath prescribes – to “first do no harm.”
America may do a lot of flag waving over Pfizer’s unprecedented success. But Pfizer does not stand in the tradition of free enterprise and competitive markets. It stands for corporate-sponsored propaganda, subtle bribery of whole segments of society (physicians, TV network news, politicians) and for driving up the cost of health care while never offering a return on society’s investment.
Never say capitalism doesn’t work, it was never given a chance. It has been corrupted by a covert variety of fascism that escapes public recognition. Don’t think of freedom when you hear of the success of marketing statin drugs — think coercion, which is the only way these pills could ever be sold. The entire system of pandering drugs by so-called ethical drug companies needs to be revamped. Public naivety, wanting more and more medicines as long as someone else pays for them, needs to cease.
The central focus of health promotion by American medicine in the past four decades has been to lower cholesterol, which appears to be a giant misdirection. Americans have paid a steep price for taking a pill that may cause more harm then good.
Fortunately, there is a glimmer of hope. Some Americans have begun to pushback against the over-marketing of statin drugs, but not because of any revelation of their ineffectiveness or potential harm, but more because they couldn’t afford insurance co-payments or because of plain forgetfulness.
Despite the millions of statin drug users and the billions of dollars of profits, pharmaceutical companies are losing billions more because a significant percentage of patients fail to fill or re-fill their statin drug prescriptions.
One survey shows about 18% fail to fill their doctor’s prescription for statins and another 14% delay their refills. The most common reasons given were patients decided they didn’t need them (14%), couldn’t purchase them because they were too costly (17%), experienced undesirable side effects (20%), and many simply forgot (24%) to fill their Rx’s. (Please note, published studies say less than 3% of statin users experience side effects.) Patients whose insurance co-payments for statin drugs are $20 or more are four times less likely to refill their prescriptions compared to a $10 co-payment.
But pharmaceutical companies are hard at work to coax that 32% who don’t re-fill their statin drug prescriptions to do so. Sadly, unless the boob tube (TV news) reveals the sad story of pharmaceutical fascism in America, the nation will continue to be mired in poor health and increasing poverty. © 2011 Bill Sardi, Knowledge of Health, Inc., Not for posting on other websites.
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