Sunday, April 05, 2009

Study on cholesterol drugs raises ethical questions

From the Calgary Herald:
Quebec doctors are being offered $100 for every new patient they put on cholesterol-lowering statin drugs as part of a major, federally subsidized study that's raising questions about the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on health research.

Critics say the OBSTAT trial seems more about drug marketing than science, getting thousands more people to take an already popular medicine.

Statins are among the most successful medications in history, with Lipitor — Canada's top-selling prescription drug — racking up almost $1.4 billion in national sales in 2008. There is ample evidence that, by cutting levels of blood cholesterol, they lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes in people already diagnosed with cardiovascular disease.

Whether they work well as primary prevention — for people who have high levels of cholesterol but don't have heart disease yet — is more debatable, though millions of such patients are taking them.

Considered relatively safe, the drugs can nevertheless cause muscle pain — sometimes severe — and other side effects. ...more

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