New Cholesterol-Lowering Medications

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I have always enjoyed having medical students in my office as I like teaching. This week, I had a pleasant 4th year medical student, Andrea. The first day Andrea showed up to my office, I handed her a New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) article about statin drugs.[i] This is an important article that gave statin drugs the indication to use in a healthy population. I asked her to explain how the authors of the article came to their conclusions and I requested that she do her own statistical analysis and report back to me. When I reviewed the article with Andrea I showed her a different way to look at and dissect the article. Specifically, I pointed out how the conclusions in the article are not supported by the data in the paper. I performed a statistical analysis with Andrea showing her that the article’s data revealed that the drug failed nearly 99% who took it even though the main stream media ridiculously reported a 50% improvement in cardiovascular outcomes. In my book, The Statin DisasterI discuss the failure of statins for the vast majority who takes them.

For years I have used this article for teaching purposes as it shows how the Big Pharma Cartel makes statin drugs appear to be beneficial when they are not. The next day, I handed Andrea another NEJM article[ii] and told her we would do the same thing. My goal is to teach Andrea and other medical students how to properly analyze a study and come to their own conclusions about whether a drug or therapy is beneficial.

The second article was about Repatha. Repatha is a new cholesterol-lowering medication that works differently from statins. It is part of an expensive class of medications that currently costs about $14,000 per year. When Repatha first came out I predicted that this class of drugs would (similarly to statins) fail and, furthermore, cause too many adverse effects.

When we reviewed the article, we concluded Repatha was not very effective as it failed to help nearly 98% who took it. As we were about to finish our discussion, I said let’s look at the adverse effects from this drug.

I flipped the page to find Table 3:

This was the first time I had looked at Table 3 even though I had read the article many times. I commented to Andrea, “Look at the adverse event numbers and look at the serious adverse event numbers.” (This information appears in the first two rows above.)

Since the Chart is difficult to see, here’s what is in the first two rows: Adverse side effects were encountered by 77.4% of those treated with both Repatha and the placebo.

As for serious side effects, 24.8% of the Repatha group and 24.7% of the placebo group suffered a serious adverse effect.

We were both stunned. How could a therapy have such a high rate of adverse effects, especially serious adverse effects? And, how could a placebo have such a high rate of adverse and serious adverse events? (One question that immediately comes to mind is what the heck is in the placebo? That will be coming soon.)

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