Authors Ebrahim and colleagues also noted in their Cochrane editorial about statin research that: “There are a number of concerning points with this review that arise due to limitations in the published data. First, in the majority of trials in the review… calculations were based on composite outcomes; second, in over one third of trials outcomes were reported selectively; and third, eight trials did not report on adverse events at all.”
Let us stop there and reflect.
Eight trials out of the 14 trials RCTs reviewed did not report on adverse events at all. That is pretty astonishing. How can anyone know whether adverse events happen, if no one is reporting on them or recording them?
The Cochrane editors were not blind to this point. They note: “This is unacceptable, as important data aiding the overall interpretation of the systematic review were not obtainable despite attempts to contact authors. Moreover, two large trials were prematurely stopped because significant reductions in primary composite outcomes had been observed. All of these shortcomings significantly undermine the findings of this review. To date, only one trial has been publicly funded, while the authors of nine trials reported having been sponsored either fully or partially by pharmaceutical companies.”
Just to hammer that point home, let us repeat that last line in the editorial: “All of the shortcomings significantly undermine the findings of this review. To date, only one trial has been publicly funded, while the authors of nine trials reported having been sponsored either fully or partially by pharmaceutical companies.”
After assessing 14 randomized control trials – eight of which did not even report on side-effects! – the Cochrane authors only found a tiny modicum of benefit for the drugs (“only limited evidence”). Pharmaceutical companies, like Pfizer, conducted nine of those studies. Anyone should approach such studies with a little skepticism. After all, there are literally billions of dollars at stake for pharmaceutical companies in this debate. Would a company really publish research that might bias the public and the medical community against its hugely profitable product?
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