An article (jamacardiology_navar_2019_vp_190009) in the June, 2019 edition of JAMA Cardiology was titled, “Fear-Based Medical Misinformation and Disease Prevention: From Vaccines to Statins. In this article,[i] the author states “fake medical news” as the reason that patients are exhibiting hesitancy about utilizing statins and vaccines.
The author correctly points out that in 1963, before the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was licensed, there were 3-4 million people who contracted measles each year. The immunization campaign which utilizes the MMR vaccine has decreased the incidence of measles. The author blames vaccine refusers for fueling outbreaks of measles. Yes, the recent outbreak in measles has been primarily in the unvaccinated population. However, mandating that every child receive the MMR does not guarantee a measles-free population. China continues to have measles outbreaks even though Chinese children are the most vaccinated in the world—over 99% of Chinese children are fully vaccinated for measles.[ii] Furthermore, there has been a rash of mumps outbreaks across the US since 2006–all in fully vaccinated populations.[iii] In 2015-2016, 453 cases of mumps were recorded with 98% being fully vaccinated. In fact, from 2016-2017, there have been over 9,200 cases of mumps in the US, mostly from fully vaccinated people.
The author claims that “…pediatricians and public health officials have been battling fake news about vaccine safety.” US children are the most vaccinated in the world. US children have the most chronic disease when compared to other Western children. In fact, over half of US children suffer with a chronic disease.[iv] Chronic disease in children has been increasing at epidemic rates at the same time we have been rapidly expanding the US childhood vaccine schedule. Since when is it fake news to question whether the expanding vaccine schedule correlates with the increasing rates of childhood illnesses?!
The author claims that “…the same fake medical news and fearmongering also plague the cardiovascular world through relentless attacks on statins.” The author further states that a popular health website[v] “…incorrectly indicates that statins cause memory loss, cataracts, pancreatic dysfunction, Lou Gehrig disease, and cancer. Many of these sites criticize statin researchers for links to ‘big pharma’…”
The Physicians Desk Reference states that adverse reactions associated with Lipitor include the cognitive impairment (memory loss, forgetfulness, amnesia, memory impairment, and confusion associated with stain use). Furthermore post-marketing studies have found Lipitor use associated with pancreatitis.[vi] Other researchers have reported a relationship between statin use and Lou Gehrig’s disease.[vii] Finally, peer-reviewed research has reported a relationship between statin use and cataracts.[viii] Statins being associated with serious adverse effects has nothing to do with fake news. These are facts.
As for criticizing researchers for links to “big pharma” I would like to ask why is that a bad thing? Researchers studying the association between the presence of individual principal investigators’ financial ties to the manufacturer of the drug study and the trial’s outcomes have shown that financial ties of principal investigators were independently associated with positive clinical trial results.[ix] So, perhaps it is not fake news to point out that doctors should question the independence of every author and they should look critically at anyone who has financial ties to industry.
The author claims that “With the exception of a small, vocal minority, most physicians believe that statins, as with vaccines, are safe and effective.” Just because the majority of physicians believe something does not make it true. Vioxx was marketed to physicians as safer than older NSAIDs. This was ‘believed’ by a majority of physicians. The result of this belief was over 60,000 deaths and 140,000 heart attacks. Vioxx was eventually pulled from the marketplace due to the serious events it caused.
The author blames fake news because patients are concerned about statin safety. A large percentage of patients stop statin drugs due to side effects.[x] I find it doubtful that fake news is responsible for a large percentage of patients to suffer adverse effects from statin therapy. I have been a clinician for over 25 years and regularly heard patients complaining about statin adverse effects.
The author states that transparency and clear communication to patients is critical to maintain trust. I could not agree more. Perhaps the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can allow a senior CDC scientist William Thompson—who has claimed whistleblower protection–to testify about his claims that the CDC lied, hid, and altered data that showed the MMR vaccine when given before 36 months of age is associated with autism. The CDC has refused to allow Dr. Thompson to testify about his claims. Dr. Thompson has claimed whistleblower status. And, perhaps the CDC can comment on another Federal case where the mumps part of the MMR is in court because two Merck whistleblowers have come forward stating the Merck falsified the data on the efficacy of the mumps part of the MMR vaccine.
The JAMA author states that the medical community needs to stay vigilant. Again, I could not agree more. Vigilance with Vioxx would have saved tens of thousands of lives and prevented hundreds of thousands of heart attacks.
Questioning the wisdom, safety and efficacy of any therapy is not fake news. It is what physicians should be doing.
My friend and colleague, David Diamond, Ph.D, also took exception to the JAMA Cardiology article. We wrote (Dr. Diamond was the principal author on this reply) the following reply which was rejected by the JAMA Cardiology. Refer to the link below to read our letter to JAMA: submitted_version_-_letter_about_Navar:
More information about statins can be found in my book, The Statin Disaster.
[ii] PLOS One. 2014; 9(2): e89631
[iii] Accessed 6.28.19 from: https://www.cdc.gov/mumps/outbreaks.html
[iv] American Pediatrics. Vol. 11. Issue 3, Supplement May – June 2011. S22-S33
[v] How much do you really know about vaccine safety? https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/ archive/2017/12/16/how-much-do-you-knowabout-vaccine-safety.aspx.AccessedMarch27, 2019.
[vi] Accessed 6.28.19 from: http://labeling.pfizer.com/ShowLabeling.aspx?id=587#section-5
[vii] Drug Saf (2018) 41:403–413 https://doi.org/10.1007/s40264-017-0620-4
[viii] 1040-5488/12/8908-1165/0 VOL. 89, NO. 8, PP. 1165–1171 OPTOMETRY AND VISION SCIENCE
[ix] the bmj | BMJ 2017;356:i6770 | doi: 10.1136/bmj.i6770
[x] Annals of Int. Med. April 2, 2013. https://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/1671715/discontinuation-statins-routine-care-settings-cohort-study