As American Heart Association Prepares to Revise Guidelines for Cholesterol, Harvard Doctor Speaks Out on Conflict of Interests

The American Heart Association (AHA) will soon be meeting in Chicago to set new guidelines for treating high cholesterol, the first big update since 2013.

Medical doctors are not at all unified in their position on cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, although pharmaceutical companies and their front groups, such as the AHA, would like the public to believe all doctors are in favor of lowering cholesterol via medication.

Independent journalist Sharyl Attkisson recently covered the issue of the “Statin Wars” on her TV show, Full Measure.

In the introduction to her show, Attkisson states:

Past (cholesterol) guidelines have said more and more of us should take cholesterol-lowering drugs called “statins” to prevent heart attacks and save lives. But the recommendations aren’t without controversy. And they raise a larger debate in medicine— over who’s paying the doctors and groups deciding what’s good for us.

She interviewed three people with different perspectives on statin drugs.

Harvard Doctor John Abramson

The first guest Attkisson interviewed was Dr. John Abramson of Harvard Medical School.

He is aware of statin drugs’ adverse side effects and critical of statins’ guidelines and research. He laments the fact that the pharmaceutical industry has completely usurped physician discretion with treating patients.

He appeared on the first TV documentary exposing statin drugs, The Cholesterol Drug War produced and hosted by Dr. Maryanne Demasi on ABC (Australian Broadcasting System) a few years ago.

The two-part series was not allowed to appear on ABC again.

n 2004, a panel of experts decided to lower the cholesterol count threshold for prescribing statin drugs, guiding physicians to millions more than the previous guidelines.

Dr. Abramson followed the money and discovered that seven of the eight doctors on that panel had strong financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, yet no conflicts of interest were displayed on the new guidelines report.

The NIH (National Institutes of Health) funds over $37 billion for pharmaceutical drug research annually.

Dr. Abramson and several colleagues petitioned the NIH to reject the new statin guidelines and fund a completely independent study on statin drug efficacy and safety.

Instead, the NIH rejected their proposal.

Science Teacher Ann Horn

The second person interviewed, Ann Horn, is a science teacher.

She was prescribed statins and suffered adverse side effects as a result, then got off them and reduced her LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) naturally by improving her diet and exercising without side effects.  

Sharyl’s coverage disclosed that three major pharmaceutical companies involved with either existing statin drugs or developing new cholesterol-lowering drugs have recently contributed over $40 million to the American Heart Association (AHA). 

It’s reasonable to suspect that drug companies would expect favorable mention and recommendations on their products from the authoritative and widely respected AHA in return for their “contributions.” 

Dr. Jennifer Robinson of the University of Iowa

Keeping with the classic fair journalism reportage standard while managing to reveal the truth, Sharyl interviewed a pro-statin doctor as the third person in her coverage, Dr. Jennifer Robinson of the University of Iowa. 

Dr. Robinson was involved with the panel that created the 2013 statin drug usage and cholesterol count prescription guidelines.

The panel’s decisions immediately expanded the statin drug industry’s marketplace to include millions more of otherwise normally healthy individuals who would be subjected to potential adverse side effects.

Most of the panel “experts” were financially connected to the very pharmaceutical companies that produce them. Dr. Robinson proudly announced that this time conflicts of interest were reported and that attempts at transparency are progressing.

Dr. Robinson refused to directly answer Sharyl’s question of how much she benefited financially from Big Pharma’s statin makers. But Sharyl and staff discovered Dr. Robinson was rewarded around $5 million over the past five years for product promotion, research, and her work on the new 2013 statin guidelines. 

Sharyl Attkisson’s report is certainly eye-opening, especially considering that it was all covered in under 9 minutes.
(See full video here.)

Dr. Abramson acknowledged that statin drugs…

Author:  Paul Fassa
Health Impact News

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