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The Peddling of New Drugs: How Media Hypes Medications & Downplays Dangers

Is this experimental cholesterol medication worth the risks?

A lawyer friend once told me, “The big print giveth, and the fine print taketh away.”

After reading this recent Wall Street Journal article, my new saying for reviewing pharmaceutical studies in the media is, “Paragraph 1 makes promises, but Paragraph 10 is the gotcha.”

The Headline:  New Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs May Cut Heart Attack Risk1

The Story:  A still experimental drug may lower risk of heart attack from 2% to 1%.

Paragraph 1: “A new class of drugs known to dramatically lower cholesterol may also reduce risk of heart attacks, strokes and other serious consequences of cardiovascular disease.”

Paragraph 6: The study was only, “a small number of events with a short follow-up and had other important limitations that called for caution”…and…”They may have overestimated the benefits and underestimated side effects.”

Paragraph 10: “Adverse cognitive events” TRIPLED, and, “included reports of confusion, attention deficits and mental impairment.”

In other words?  Heart attack risk was halved, but the risk of losing mental faculties tripled.

Dr. Weiniger’s Recommendation: Be aware of absolute numbers in statistics. If you haven’t seen the Youtube videos by James McCormack that puts health risk science to the popular Tommy Tutone song, “Jenny,” it’s well worth your time.

 

 

 

1 “New Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs May Cut Heart Attack Risk.”  Wall Street Journal.  Retrieved 3/16/15 from http://on.wsj.com/1Eo8LHQ

 

 

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