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Another Potential Boondoggle for "Big Pharma"?

By       Message Dave Lefcourt     Permalink
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View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H2 11/18/13

From Tales of Big Pharma Horror
Tales of Big Pharma Horror
(Image by Mike Licht,
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Caricature of "Big Pharma" Doctor mixing a compound with Death whispering in his ear

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Over the past several days a huge controversy has developed over a new set of "guidelines"   for lowering of cholesterol along with a "calculator" meant "to help doctors to assess risks" [1] in their patients need to take statin drugs i.e. Lipitor, Crestor et al.

The "guidelines" and "calculator" were developed and their findings published by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology last week.

It appears two Harvard Medical School professors, Dr. Paul M. Ridker and Dr. Nancy Cook took issue with the published report having pointed out problems they saw a year earlier that the "calculator" sent to them to review "was not working among populations it was tested on by the guideline makers".

Apparently the earlier problems discovered by the two Harvard professors were never passed on to the researchers working up the "guidelines".

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So when Ridker and Cook saw the final "guidelines" and "calculator" in final form last week they realized the problems they found earlier remained.  

On Saturday at the annual meeting of the AHA during a closed door session with its members as well as the college of cardiology, Ridker "showed them his data and pointed out the problem".

Incredibly his data showed their published report had the "calculator" over-predicting risk by 75 to 150 percent.

In a separate report of their own to be published tomorrow Ridker and Cook write in the "Lancet", a major medical journal, "Miscalibration to this extent should be reconciled and addressed before these predictive models are widely implemented. If real, such systemic overestimation of risk will lead to considerable overprescription".

Ah yes, "overprescription" as that is the operative word here whereby those who don't need the drug and not at risk are prescribed it anyway.

Could this "overprescription" for millions of people be a boondoggle for the big pharmaceutical companies particularly if the "guidelines" and "risk calculator" findings by the AHA and college of cardiology remain essentially unchanged or modified only slightly with millions of those who don't need the drug and not at risk are prescribed it anyway?

It's hard to know exactly the connections between medical doctors, their professional organizations, the government and the huge pharmaceutical drug manufacturers. Do practicing physicians sit on the boards of big Pharma? Should we expect collusion or are these suspicions unfounded?

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If we look at the "Affordable Care Act", aka "Obamacare" it should not be lost on anyone that with no single payer, Medicare type health system other than for seniors over 65, the private health care industry stand to increase their profits in the hundreds of billions once the snags and snafus of Obamacare's first month and a half of operation are smoothed out.

  So increasing the population of those "supposedly" needing statins because they fall within the "guidelines" and a "calculator" of suspect, flawed findings as they greatly overestimate risk, will still be a boon for the big Pharma crowd.

As we know, the cost of prescription drugs in the U.S. is substantially higher than in Canada and Europe.      

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