Adverse effects of statins

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g3306 (Published 15 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3306

Re: Adverse effects of statins

Rory Collins is clearly a passionate advocate of statins and the available efficacy data does support his fervent belief in the positive contribution of statins to primary prevention and public health. [1]

But on the other hand , I do strongly object to the call for complete retraction of the BMJ manuscripts. [2]. The winners of scientific debates should not be in a position to name their price and extract the Middle East equivalent of “blood money"[3]. The adverse publicity on statin side effects has been effectively countered by the recent publicity on retraction of those claims and there has been a reputational cost to many concerned.[4]. Nothing more is needed and retraction should be reserved for serious misdemeanours.

More importantly, calls for accurate data reporting should themselves be devoid of hyperbole. A Guardian article quotes that the adverse statin publicity is ‘‘probably killing more people than had been harmed as a result of the paper on the MMR vaccine by Andrew Wakefield’’.[5]. Similar claims were also made in an email correspondence by Collins et al with Cochrane team (Feedback dated 4 March 2011 available on Cochrane website states’ ‘in public health terms, it is potentially a far more serious misrepresentation than that of the risks of MMR by Wakefield and The Lancet’’)[1].

Just like the statin side effects claims, these claims are plausible, but there is no robust data to confirm these statements. I certainly have not heard from any GP about patients coming off statins en masse. There has been no deliberate data fabrication in these manuscripts and the authors were cooperative unlike Andrew Wakefield. It is hypocritical to counter inaccurate publicity with sensational hyperbole. Unless robust supportive data could be provided, these claims should be immediately retracted.

1 Taylor F, Huffman MD, Macedo AF, et al. Feedback Section : Statins for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. In: Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd 1996. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004816.pub5/abstract (accessed 24 May2014).

2 Godlee F. Adverse effects of statins. BMJ 2014;348:g3306–g3306. doi:10.1136/bmj.g3306

3 Blood money (restitution). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_money_%28restitution%29 (accessed 24 May2014).

4 DO statins cause side effects or not? Row breaks among academics. Mail Online. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2629366/DO-statins-cause-effec... (accessed 24 May2014).

5 Boseley S, Editor H. Doctors’ fears over statins may cost lives, says top medical researcher. the Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/mar/21/-sp-doctors-fears-over-st... (accessed 24 May2014).

Competing interests: Recently, in a rapid response to a BMJ prostate cancer paper, I did comment that the BMJ editorial team was let down by the peer review team . http://www.bmj.com/content/348/bmj.g1502/rr/689720

24 May 2014
Santhanam SUNDAR
Consultant Oncologist
Nottingham University Hospital NHS trust