Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fearmongering in the natural medicine blogosphere

If you peruse my personal blog, you'll probably find that I have a fairly open minded view of alternative medicine. A couple of times, I've taken MD bloggers over at scienceblogs to task over their applications of logical fallacies to arguments against alternative medicines. Unfortunately, logical fallacies, fearmongering, and conspiracy theory are too common in the natural medicines blogosphere. One site has commented about the recent JUPITER study (where rosuvastatin/Crestor(r) was shown to cut cardiovascular events even in people with normal LDL/HDL cholesterol) that (somebody?) was going to force everybody to take statins whether they are healthy are not. This commentary serves nobody, including the consumers of natural or alternative medicine modalities, and is so ridiculous that a moment's thought ought to dismiss the whole commentary.

What questions are raised by the study concern whether the cholesterol levels are enough, or whether inflammation (as measured by C-reactive protein) ought to be considered as well when assessing the risk of heart disease. Another question is whether this effect is common to all statins, or shows up in particular statins. (Could generic simvastatin create the same effect.) A third question is whether the cost is worth the benefit, as the NNT for 1.9 years of treatment (to prevent a cardiac event) is on the order of 120 people. In short, more questions are raised by the JUPITER study than are answered, and public policy toward the consumption of statins is unlikely to change based on this one study.

Update: a newly released study about Lipitor suggests kidney function may be involved, so far at the "association," but not "causation," level.

Edits: some grammar mistakes and clarifications.