Given the discussion on statins a few months ago and the withdrawal of the Catalyst stories I thought this AusSMC roundup was useful.  

It’s from last week so ‘history not news’.




From: AusSMC []
Sent: Thursday, 15 May 2014 10:01 AM
Subject: UK SMC Roundup: BMJ authors withdraw statements about adverse effects of statins


Dear Journalists,

Given the recent controversy around the use of statins in Australia, we thought you might find these comments from our colleagues in the UK useful. They relate to news out today that the authors of two articles published in The BMJ last year are withdrawing statements about the adverse effects of statins.

The authors cited data from an uncontrolled observational study and incorrectly concluded that statin side effects occur in 18-20% of patients. This incorrect statement was repeated in another article published in the same week in The BMJ by Aseem Malhotra – and is the statement the authors have now withdrawn.

The Editor-in-Chief of The BMJ has also asked an independent expert panel to decide whether the articles should be retracted.

Feel free to use these comments if you are writing up this story and please let us know if you would like a copy of the research or if you would like an Australian expert to comment.


AusSMC Team


UK Science Media Centre Round-up*


Expert reaction to news that BMJ authors withdraw statements about adverse effects of statins


Dr Tim Chico, Senior Clinical Lecturer and honorary Consultant Cardiologist, University of Sheffield / Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: 

“To err is human, and I respect the authors for retracting their comments in a timely and open manner. However, every day I have to spend time explaining to patients that the adverse effects of statins are often highlighted or overestimated without recognising their massive contribution to the reduction of cardiovascular disease. Statins save lives. This is beyond doubt, and is one of the most well proven treatments doctors can use for any disease. Obviously not everyone needs a statin and we still have work to do to understand who exactly should take them if they have not got definite heart disease. However, if  I suffered a heart attack I would want to be on a statin, period.”


Professor Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said:


“The BHF welcomes the BMJ's retraction of incorrect statements on the side effects of statins.  Statins are an important weapon in the fight against heart disease and it is essential that trusted medical journals like the BMJ do not mislead the public. Patients should feel reassured by this move and should not stop taking their statin.”



Professor John Greenwood PhD FRCPath, Hugh Davson Professor of Biomedical Research, University College London



There is overwhelming scientific and clinical evidence that statins are an extremely well tolerated class of drug that provides significant health benefit to a vast number of at risk patients. Despite such overwhelming evidence, there remains a disproportionate and highly public opposition to their use. Much of this concern is based on the view that harmful side effects are not fully reported and this is further strengthened by a plethora of anecdotal “evidence”. It is therefore to be applauded that the BMJ has taken steps to clarify any misconceptions that could arise from publications in which there has been a clear misinterpretation of data. As with all drugs, the sole criteria determining statin use should be whether the risk outweighs the benefit. Consequently, it is incumbent on the scientific and medical community to ensure that data is interpreted in the most rigorous fashion so that such decisions are based on fact and not on spurious assumptions.”


 Prof Sir Rory Collins, Co-Director of Oxford University’s Clinical Trial Service Unit and Professor of Medicine & Epidemiology, said:

Excellent news that the BMJ finally decided to withdraw these misleading claims. The authors of these two papers misrepresented the evidence repeatedly even after their errors had been pointed out to them. Such misconduct should be dealt with appropriately by retracting these seriously flawed papers in the interest of public health”

 Declared interests

 CTSU has a policy of not accepting honoraria, consultancies or other payments directly or indirectly from pharma, other than the reimbursement of travel and accommodation for particular scientific meetings.

 The CTSU conducts, analyses and interprets its clinical trials (for which it serves as the regulatory sponsor) and other research independently of the pharmaceutical industry funders and other funders, with the datasets held by the CTSU rather than by the funders. In accordance with our long-term policy, honoraria, consultancy or other payments have not been received directly or indirectly from industry, either personally by me or by the University (except for reimbursement of travel and accommodation for taking part in relevant scientific meetings). I have previously sent the BMJ a list of all of the grants to Oxford University for any CTSU trials and all other commercially-funded research over the past 20 years.


 * ‘Adverse effects of statins: The BMJ and authors withdraw statements that adverse events occur in 18-20% of patients' by Fiona Godlee will be published in the BMJ at 00:01 UK time on Thursday 15 May 2014, which is also when the embargo will lift. 



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