When the panel of experts for the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association announced their new Cardiovascular Risk Guidelines on November 12th, they ignited a firestorm of controversy.

Almost immediately, the public questioned the integrity of the process, asking about drug company influence and potential conflicts of interest. The committee was quick to respond that less than half its members had any ties to industry and those that did never voted on key questions involving policy or risk assessment. That was supposed to reassure people that this task force was independent, objective and beyond reproach.

It turns out this was smoke and mirrors. The cynics and skeptics may have been right after all.

A new investigation into the background of the experts on the committee by Jeanne Lenzer in the BMJ (November 21, 2013) reveals that a “Majority of Panelists on controversial new cholesterol guideline have current or recent ties to drug manufacturers.”

Here’s the straight and skinny. Instead of less than half, the BMJ report notes that “eight of the 15 panelists had industry ties.” Most important of all, the chairman and one co-chair “had ties to the drug industry at the time they were asked to lead the panel.”

By severing his ties with the pharmaceutical industry at the time he started serving on the committee, the chairman thought he could get away with the answer “none” to the question of relationships with industry. In reality, however, Dr. Neil Stone had previously had financial relationships with six companies that made cholesterol-lowering drugs. Because the chairman of such a panel wields a lot of influence, this is a violation of the Institute of Medicine’s guidelines on conflict of interest. Even more worrisome, Dr. Stone voted on key issues, something that other panelists with industry connections were not supposed to do.

All of a sudden the committee’s claims of impartiality are thrown into question. Since recommendations by this panel will likely double the number of people who may be urged to take a statin-type cholesterol-lowering drug, questions about conflict of interest are distressing.

Many expert committees that dictate guidelines for doctors appear to be influenced by industry. That makes it harder for physicians and patients to trust the recommendations that are made. Dr. Steve Nissen has said that committee chairmen should not have relationships with the pharmaceutical industry. Listen to his interview with us to better understand why this is so critical to your health. There is a free podcast at this link.

What do you think? Does this new revelation change your opinion of the new cardiovascular guidelines?

Here is what others have shared in response to our earlier story: “How Modern Medicine Shot Itself in the Foot.”

“Thank you, Joe & Terry. I knew these guidelines were bogus when I first read them. The people whose research is funded by pharmaceutical companies are recommending policies that will lead to doubling the number of people taking the drugs. Oh, and these drugs are now losing patent protection so big pharma needs to sell more to maintain earnings momentum. Very suspicious.

“I took a statin for a couple of months several years ago. I got so sick, I truly thought I was dying. I hurt all over, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t even turn over in bed without enormous and painful effort. I stopped the drug and, happily, my health returned. I consulted with a cardiologist in Chapel Hill to get the second opinion, and he confirmed that the drug was the problem.” Gene

“The shameful level on incompetency exhibited in this whole debacle is a sad, sad commentary on the state of medicine in the United States. Without making any accusations, it certainly appears that the committee that devised the ridiculous recommended guidelines had their pockets full of favors from big pharma.” Virtualguy

“Our physicians are held hostage by the pharmaceutical industry influence on best practices. I have refused statins since I first took them with disastrous results, but my endocrinologist is compelled to offer them to me over and over again because she will be considered not to be practicing proper medicine if she doesn’t. Recently had my genome sequenced and, lo and behold, I am intolerant of statins per my genetic phenotype, something I knew from experience but had to prove so I would stop getting pressure to take them.” C.S.

Drugs save lives. They can help cure us when we are sick. But drugs can also cause an incredible amount of suffering. Adverse reactions to medications are responsible for an alarming number of deaths each year. And drug interactions (incompatible combinations of medicines) are surprisingly common.

In our book, Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them, we reveal little known secrets about these kinds of errors and equip you to protect yourself and your loved ones from deadly mistakes. Here is a link to our publications.

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  1. RLB

    An excellent set of choices. The only thing that you have to be careful about now is getting your cholesterol too low. Since you now have discovered that you can control your levels, you will also be able to recognize the one at which you feel the best. When your cholesterol level gets too low, you will also end up with low Testosterone and autoimmune deficiencies. The niacin will also raise your HDL level. Congratulations! Too bad your doctor is afraid to use your experience to help more of his patients.

  2. alan

    I’ve been a regular patient of a particular MD here, and I’d always had borderline high blood pressure and cholesterol. He prescribed me a common combination drug for each condition, then he referred me to an excellent urologist for my low T, who put me on androgen for that. When my cholesterol went almost to 300 & I had a heart attack, of course I got a stent, which got me on ANOTHER medication for a year.
    The med for cholesterol went first & I started RYR & niacin. My cholesterol had gone down from 258 to 243 or so in 6-8 months; after the switch it went to 179 in 3 months, 167 in two more. then I added CoQ10 & Omega-3s for extra insurance. When the prescription service started messing with my blood pressure meds, I dropped them & started hawthorn extract.
    The only product of Big Pharma I now use is 81mg aspirin. My doc has told me that he has more respect for me since my heart attack, and compliments me for taking ownership of my own health. My only problems any more are my sporadic allergy attacks, which have to be aggressively addressed, and my one session with shingles.
    He & I agree that a natural approach has worked better for me than Big Pharma. STUFF ‘EM!

  3. Churchlady

    My husband had bad reactions to statins, but since he has cardio problems and needed to lower his numbers, his primary care physician recommended a supplement Policosanol (from rice wax, Orza sp.). It works great to lower cholesterol to reasonable numbers without being too low, and with no side effects that we are aware of. This doctor recommends it to all his patients who do not want to take statins for any reason, but who need to lower cholesterol. Everyone he has recommended it to has had great results and no side effects. Worked for my husband. It is available from one of the reputable supplement manufacturers online.

  4. tutorjb1JB

    INSTEAD OF TAKING ANY STATIN like I did for years while watching the known harmful side effects of statins mount(to finally reach a 50% greater chance for cataracts at an earlier age), I finally found a doctor who offered an alternative, cholestyramine powder. I noticed she’d lost weight and she attributed that to the cholestyramine powder Her doctor had prescribed her for her high LDL, saying it had the side effect of blocking fat absorption and was happy to prescribe it for me.
    I was advised not to stop the simvastatin (Zocor) I had been taking abruptly, so for the following month cut my 20 mg. Zocors in half and took them then threw away any I had left and started cholestyramine 3 times a day(an hour after taking my other meds to prevent conflict).
    Google to find a great deal of Info. on the Web. Not very much came on the insert with my prescription.
    I don’t care what anybody says, I’ll never take a statin again! Why should I, when cholestyramine powder is available and doctors, themselves, use it instead of statins to treat their high cholesterol? If you know a reason that doesn’t involve more money for drug-makers and quacks, I’d like to hear it. Otherwise, please do not reply!
    tutorjb1 – JB

  5. Judy

    I sent an e-mail to the AMA telling them that I would no longer be donating to them, because of their collusion with the drug companies. I am appalled at what the drug companies continue to do the the American public and how they use, and the doctors let themselves be used, for their greed.
    I hope that other will e-mail the AMA as I have.

  6. MS

    I have come to believe that many of the guidelines we physicians are ‘expected’ to adhere to in the management of heart disease, diabetes, etc. are all based on fraud and deceit. There are as many studies to support opposite ways to manage diabetes, etc. as there are to support the supposed guidelines. I am tired of being told how best to provide quality care to patients when I have actually read and analyzed the studies and do not come to the same conclusions about provision of medical care as the supposed experts. Patients are people and there is great variability in how to manage a person’s medical care. One size doesn’t fit all.
    Another example of bias in medical committees is the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) having a task force on infant circumcision that was loaded with all pro-circumcision enthusiasts that did not review all the medical literature and then came out with a statement that misquotes and misinterprets data all in order to promote circumcision and reimbursement for circumcision-a totally unnecessary procedure performed on non-consenting persons with many complications and harms. I have totally lost respect for the AAP and many other medical organizations. Physicians and patients need to beware of any recommendations and do their own research.

  7. Dorothy A.

    Just a note to say thank you and thank you again regarding the statin drug scam. I argued a few times with doctors about taking them and finally quit them all.
    I still have some cramps in my legs but its nothing like back then. Also my vertigo is much better and my balance has improved. God bless you for keeping us informed.

  8. Noah V.

    I think that the pharmaceutical companies, along with everyone else in the health care industry, are finding their hands tied and directed by the healthcare insurance mavens whose interest is in their actuarial tables and average expected outcomes as opposed to actual personalized treatment.
    The public at the same time has been gulled into thinking that healthcare insurance is the same as healthcare. Thus we have insurance covering all possible healthcare aspects from doctor-office visits to prescription drugs. The insurance not only covers the costs of these services, it mandates which ones and how much a person can receive. Thus actuarial tables have taken the place of physicians in determining the application of healthcare services.
    Pharmaceutical companies are… businesses. They are in business to make money, for the companies, their stockholders and officers as well as paying all the employees and capitalizing both production and research. Businesses are in business to make a profit. They stop doing so and poof… they are out of business. I don’t blame the companies for this blatant corruption. I blame the regulators and the entire healthcare industry for allowing itself to have a middleman injected into the patient-doctor relationship- the healthcare-insurance-industrial-complex.

  9. oldetimer

    What is being described in this article and the subsequent comments is not unique to the medical profession or the pharmaceutical industry. At the risk of possibly exaggerating, I believe it is universal. Think of any major industry, eg. automobiles, banks, insurance companies, etc. There are probably many reasons for this, but in spite of all the screaming and yelling, nothing really changes. Why? Because we have increasingly become a society that refuses to DEMAND responsibility and accountability!
    Greed is a natural motivator; up to a point it can be a very positive and constructive motivator (idealistic capitalism) our society has declined so much that “excessive” greed has become has become increasingly dangerous and destructive as it continues to proliferate. Until the American people ORGANIZE and FORCE our elected public officials to pass appropriate laws under the believable threat of being shames and recalled, nothing will change. The American people have become much too uninformed, gullible, naive, and passive for change to take place. They have forfeited control over their society to the psychopaths and ideologues, who are, by their nature, extremely aggressive, and thus, reach their goals.
    The ultimate responsibility for our country and society rests with the American people.
    I could go on forever, but I would just like to make one last, general statement: It is my belief that the United States is, and has been, in a state of essentially irreversible devolution. It has happened in every previous great civilization. We are no different.

  10. RLB

    How many readers are not amazed at the results of impartial research refuting the new guidelines. Read the health news. The “medical” professionals and the FDA believe that everyone should be taking Statins beginning at childhood. The same professionals are astounded at the surge in Autism, low Testosterone, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, and any other conditions that were never epidemic until recently.—-Big surprise!!.
    Take away an essential precursor or building block from ANY system and it will eventually exhibit the classic symptoms of the omission. For an exercise in reality, research how much cholesterol contributes to the construction and maintenance of the human system. It may well be an eye-opener.
    The only thing that really frightens me is doctors—and I am not afraid of anything.

  11. Don

    It appears as if millions of patients world-wide are one giant research study on statins. When is the study over? When do we see the results? How many lives are saved each year; how many heart attacks are averted? What is the cost of treating all the side effects? What is the cost/benefit ratio?
    I would like to launch my own study. It would merely cut the number of statin users by 50%. For the 50% remaining on the medication, it would cut the dose by half for 50% of those (i.e. 25% of total users remain unchanged). Impossible, of course. But the results would sure be interesting.

  12. JAS

    The arrogance and audacity of those “doctors” who serve two masters — their patients and the Almighty God of Greed — is absolutely astounding! These so called “experts/authorities” and “leaders of guidelines” — along with the Big Pharma — have destroyed any trust consumers once had in their own doctors, as well as those “experts/authorities.”
    Obviously, they have forgotten the oath they took to “First, do no harm…” Sickening! Absolutely sickening! When will Big Pharma wake up and smell the coffee? These “doctors” and Big Pharma’s arrogance are now driving themselves & their companies into a ditch because they’re too blind to see that consumers are waking up and getting more and more empowered to be skeptical, ask questions and search for the truth! Many “Thanks!” to those who help us seek that truth, like The People’s Pharmacy!

  13. Katherine

    In the very first newspaper article I read on this topic it made the claim above that none of the doctors who took the votes in favor of these recommendations had ties to producing pharmacies, but implied that others in the group were. Having been an attorney for 35 years who has worked with legislatures, I am quite familiar with how “things get done.” Red flags went up immediately.
    Follow up stories didn’t even mention this possible taint to the recommendations. I am sick to death of insurance and pharmaceutical companies shading the truth (or outright lying) for the sake of the almighty dollar. Then they attach their “findings” to some organization with acronyms sounding official and think the public will buy it. And many do!
    I was sad not to hear any immediate push back, except for a couple of doctors who gingerly challenged the methodology and results. Looks like The Peoples Pharmacy is becoming the only place we can look to for truth and honesty these days. Hats off to you all the work that you do!

  14. Stephen

    Thank you so much Joe and Terry. I do not know how widely your wonderful informational talk shows are broadcasted, but I hope throughout the US. You both continue to render such an important service to Americans who are concerned about health care. We all thank you immensely! We will continue to depend on your show and website to share with us the truth in American health care arena. I do not want to consider what might have happened with the AMA’s and ACC’s new recommendations on the use of statin drugs, had the People’s Pharmacy and other note worthy organizations not stepped forward and revealed the truth! SHAME THRICE SHAME UPON THIS COMMITTEE AND THE AMA AND ACC FOR ENDORSING SUCH BIASED, POORLY RESEARCHED AND HEALTH ENDANGERING INFORMATION….whatever happened to the physicians’ pledge of “first do no harm?”
    Stephen, B.A., M.A., Ed.S.

  15. crandreww

    Thank you for publishing this article…I was a Critical Care RN for 12 years, when I fell ill and became disabled in 2002, due to an unpublished effect of Lipitor. And when I found this out, I was outraged! I took pride in researching and studying everything I could about the drugs I was giving my patients. I regret to say, that if the time ever came that I could go back to work, I would not go back to Nursing/Patient care. I have become one of Western Medicines biggest critics now. I guess you could say, I am tainted. But when you take a drug to help you prevent a common problem, and have a HUGE LIFE CHANGING effect, that most Doctors completely refute, you tend to become a bit skewed. I mean, Mitochondrail DNA mutations, Brain Cell Death, Peripheral Neuropathy, Chronic Profound Fatigue, Myoclonus, Profound Short Term Memory problems…None of that was in the brochure. Several years after my statin injury, I came down with Shingles, I went to the doctor, she told me there is nothing I can do to cure it, but she would give me an antiviral which “may or may not help” I told her no thanks, came home, went to Peoples Pharmacy, found several people stating great relief of symptoms with Apple Cider Vinegar…I tried it, and now completely sworn off RX’s unless an emergency..

  16. Donnie

    Greed and corruption are rampant in the health care field. We have no real way of knowing who we should trust, anymore. So many people are seriously harmed, and even killed, by drugs and medical procedures. Add hospital mistakes and infections, and the body count rises. Defective medical devices add to the toll, too.

  17. prk

    I agree with Marks’s response!!! “Big Pharma is out of control in the USA. It is pathetic and disgusting. In my opinion as a retired pharmacist, Americans are GROSSLY over medicated. Thank you, Joe and Terry, for standing up to these playground bullies and telling it like it is.”
    Americans are GROSSLY over medicated! & I fear for my well being every time my cardiologist prescribes a new medication.
    I refuse to take a statin! I take FLUSH FREE NIACIN 1000 MG recommended by my doctor.

  18. M

    This is my views & only mine. I have lost faith in Doctors/pharma co’s. I have invested with majority of them for good science & moral ethics. I work with them for over 35 years. Now, it come to bogus science & lost their credibility with us to be consumer/patient.

  19. Phelps

    Several recent articles in the New York Times and elsewhere have examined the statistical basis for these new guidelines and shown them to be seriously flawed. It looks as if the panel had deliberately chosen the data and analysis in a way that would maximize the use of statin drugs. For full details, you can search news.google.com for cholesterol flawed. Very disquieting, to say the least.

  20. kjam

    Of course it’s all about money. I just refilled a prescription for an 80 year old combo-drug that suddenly went non-generic. Instead of $0.35 per tablet, it is $4.63 per tablet. And I don’t have information on who or where it is manufactured. Despite my stupidity in paying for the med before checking it out, I will not take these pills. I will demand that my doctor find a proper equivalent
    for me — or suffer through it.

  21. Mark

    Big Pharma is out of control in the USA. It is pathetic and disgusting. In my opinion as a retired pharmacist, Americans are GROSSLY overmedicated. Thank you, Joe and Terry, for standing up to these playground bullies and telling it like it is.

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