Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Adverse effects of statins

The BMJ statins papers misrepresent the facts

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 18 June 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g4030

Re: The BMJ statins papers misrepresent the facts

I applaud Peter Sever for coming forward to put his case in favour of statins to the BMJ readers [1]. My interest on statins is not only professional but personal as well, as a potential future user of statins like many other BMJ readers. I, like most BMJ readers, would like to hear arguments in favour of statins as well as against statins in the primary prevention setting before making my own conclusion [2]. I do not want paternalistic protection from "bad science" by way of retraction of the two articles in question with the calls for retraction in some way reminiscent of the sensational trial of ‘Lady Chatterley's Lover’. [3] I believe in freedom of expression, abhor scientific censorship and hugely favour the American constitutional right of 'freedom of speech'.[4][5]

Peter Server has put forward good arguments in favour of statins but he has not put forward convincing arguments why the papers in question have to be withdrawn. If the data in favour of statins is quite strong and very convincing, why is the need for retraction of critical papers? Moreover, retraction in a digital age has only symbolic value and if anything, it would give extra ammunition to conspiracy theorists.

More precisely, Peter Sever has not convincingly answered the case for lowering the scientific threshold for retraction of papers? And he has also not defined what is an acceptable threshold for retraction?. For instance, a forensic analysis of his publications and conduct of his clinical studies has a small chance of showing some minor errors or some minor deviations from study protocol. In such a scenario, would he be willing to withdraw his papers or study findings? How much scientific imperfection is acceptable in an imperfect real world?


1 Sever P. The BMJ statins papers misrepresent the facts. BMJ 2014;348:g4030–g4030. doi:10.1136/bmj.g4030

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

3 Robertson G. The trial of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The Guardian. 2010. (accessed 22 Jun2014).

4 Dyer C. Surgeon threatened with libel over remarks made about a breast enhancement cream. BMJ 2010;341:c6452–c6452. doi:10.1136/bmj.c6452

5 Dyer C. BMJ invokes new Texan freedom of speech law to fight Wakefield libel case. BMJ 2012;344:e2051–e2051. doi:10.1136/bmj.e2051

Competing interests: I frequently stop statins in kidney cancer patients who are on Pazopanib therapy due to drug interaction.

23 June 2014
Santhanam SUNDAR
Consultant Oncologist
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS trust
Nottingham NG5 1PB