Thursday 15 May 2014

Aseem Malhotra's comeuppance

Well, well, well. Look who's in trouble...

Articles published by the British Medical Journal suggesting that statins may be harmful are to be investigated.

The journal will set up an expert panel to decide if it should retract two articles saying the cholesterol-reducing drugs had harmful side-effects.

The papers were criticised when they were published in October.

Statins are offered to seven million people in the UK who have a 20% chance of heart disease in the next decade.

The BMJ said Dr John Abramson from Harvard Medical School and UK cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra had already withdrawn statements from the articles after some figures proved to be incorrect.

The use of incorrect figures is Malhotra's calling card and the chickens are coming home to roost for Action on Sugar's scientific director. Longtime readers of this blog will fondly recall him from such posts as Aseem Malhotra doesn't know what he's talking about, Aseem Malhotra: Still clueless and Aseem Malhotra: quackery's buddy.

Errors were not picked up at the time by the journal's editors or the experts who peer-reviewed the work, the BMJ said.

Gosh, there's a shock.

The journal said Dr Abramson's paper cited data from an "uncontrolled observational study" and "incorrectly concluded" that statin side-effects occur in 18-20% of patients.

The same mistake was made by Dr Malhotra in the same edition of the BMJ and it is these statements that have been withdrawn, the journal said.

Malhotra has not only made this claim in the BMJ, he has said the same in the more widely read Daily Mail. And, as a practising cardiologist, he is in a position to practice what he preaches...

I often stop patients taking statins when I believe they are causing distressing side effects, which happens in about one in five of those I see... Last month the Annals Of Internal Medicine reported that 20 per cent of those on statins suffered a significant side effect

As I tweeted at the the time...

It remains to be seen whether the BMJ settles for withdrawing the specific errors or retracting the whole articles. The complaint about the journal's articles was made by Prof Rory Collins who said in March...

“It is a serious disservice to British and international medicine," he said, claiming that it was probably killing more people than had been harmed as a result of the paper on the MMR vaccine by Andrew Wakefield. “I would think the papers on statins are far worse in terms of the harm they have done.”

It's good to see Malhotra in the news for the right reasons at last.


Unknown said...

Except that Statins DO have horrible side effects - I felt it was time someone spoke up so the original report pleased me. However, I saw this on Retraction watch yesterday, and my immediate gut feeling is that the check is in the mail from big pharma! Statins are the best selling product in the world. All the science about statins is questionable in any event.

Vova said...

All science is questionable. All drugs have side effects in some people. What is a lie is that statins have side effects in 20% of people who take them, which is what the charlatan said, presumably to keep his name in the papers and to get another article for his cv in the pretty worthless BMJ.

Anonymous said...

The guy may well be a fraud, at least in terms of his percentages, but the range of serious side effects from statins is wide and their effectiveness as preventives is more than questionable. Look into a book by former Science Magazine editor, and NY Times science writer Gary Taubes, "Good Calories. Bad Calories" in which he not only cites and explores scores of studies showing the dangers and ineffectivness of statins and the irrelevance of cholesterol, but provides a precise anatomy of the politics, pressures and lousy science behind the whole business, which uncannily parallels the birth of such Trueisms as secondhand smoke and man-made global warming. ---
Walt Cody