From Vaccines to Statins: A Reply to Fake News in JAMA Cardiology

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.

Dissolving Illusions: ... Bystrianyk, Roman Best Price: $38.50 Buy New $21.60 (as of 11:00 UTC - Details) 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.

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