A cardiologist from the Cleveland Clinic has published a scathing op-ed in MedPage Today that chastises people who use the internet for supposedly driving heart patients away from taking statin drugs. According to Steven Nissen, a “deadly, internet-driven cult” is the reason why statin usage is dropping, and he says that he’s upset about it for reasons other than the fact that he has financial ties to the drug industry.
Nissen’s opinion piece cites statistics published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine showing that only 61 percent of patients administered a prescription for a statin drug continue taking it after three months. This he blames not on the laundry list of deadly side effects that are also widely reported in the scientific literature, but rather on anti-statin crusaders whom he laments are steering patients towards alternatives.
“[W]e are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of our patients to Web sites developed by people with little or no scientific expertise, who often pedal ‘natural’ or ‘drug-free’ remedies for elevated cholesterol levels,” Nissen whines in his editorial. “The anti-statin forces employ two distinct strategies, statin denial, the proposition that cholesterol is not related to heart disease, and statin fear, the notion that lowering serum cholesterol levels will cause serious adverse effects.”
In addition to being upset about people rejecting statins, Nissen is also livid that any statin patient would dare to claim that he or she was harmed by statins. In Nissen’s view, any negative outcome from taking statins is the result of the nocebo effect, or what he describes as side effects that only exist within a patient’s head. In other words, nobody is ever harmed by statins, according to Nissen, and anyone who claims to have been is just crazy.
Nissen has accepted cash grants from Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, Amgen, and Esperion Therapeutics
It’s a passionate, though painfully juvenile, approach that one might assume is simply Nissen’s bizarre way of trying to help people. But a closer look reveals that Nissen has direct financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, something he was forced to admit on an International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) conflict of interest form.
Before his MedPage Today article could be published, Nissen was required to fill out this form, on which he admitted that he has “relevant conflicts of interest.” Listed is a grant he received from a company known as Esperion Therapeutics that’s currently developing a cholesterol drug of its own. This grant is listed as being directly relevant to his op-ed article, i.e. he apparently accepted money from a company that produces medications similar to those that he’s attempting to defend.
This same form reveals that Nissen has also accepted grants in the past from other drug companies, including Amgen, Pfizer, and Astra Zeneca. These are listed as financially relevant conflicts of interests to outside work that Nissen has presented for publication just within the last three years – who knows what else he’s worked on prior to that.
What this all suggests is that Nissen is just another Big Pharma prostitute doing the bidding of his corporate masters in exchange for grants. It would explain why he completely ignored mentioning any of the more than 300-plus diseases listed in the scientific literature as being adverse effects of taking statin drugs.
“According to ProPublica, Dr. Nissen had scored a cool $80,000 payday from drug firms last year,” writes Dr. Jason Fung in a piece for Medium.
“Oh, right, further he received money from 3 of the biggest drug firms (Amgen, Pfizer, and Astra Zeneca) on the planet to do research and write papers.”
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