Study title and author:
Might money spent on statins be better spent?
Arnold J Jenkins, general practitioner principal
Colne Road Surgery, Burnley BB10 1LG ; Email: AJ_Jenkins@compuserve.com
The following letter was sent to the British Medical Journal from Arnold J Jenkins, a general practitioner in the UK
Access at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC218861/?tool=pubmed
Editor—As Abbasi argues in his Editor's choice, the benefits of publishing negative findings should be obvious.
As a general practitioner I wonder how many million pounds sterling the NHS could save if the Medical Research Council, the British Heart Foundation, and the Lancet shared this view. An example is in the prescribing of statins. They are a major cost in my practice, as I am sure they are to many practitioners.
Imagine my delight when I heard of the large heart protection study showing clear benefits in the use of statins for women. On reading this study I was therefore disappointed to find the total mortality data for women missing. I now understand that the total mortality benefit for women did not reach significance and therefore was not published (Louise Bowman, personal communication, 2002).
I do not understand why the censors of this paper do not realise two things.
Firstly, any meta analyses based on this study are likely to be skewed.
Secondly, in such long term studies total mortality, not improvement in the condition, should be the gold standard for evaluation (euthanasia, for example, provides 100% cure of headache but should be ruled out on the mortality data).
I have yet to find a paper showing a significant reduction in mortality in women for groups treated with statins. It therefore seems that any benefit, if found, will be minimal. Yet we are almost compelled by protocols such as the national service framework for coronary heart disease and local prescribing incentives to prescribe for this subgroup. Also the supporting documentation to the new general medical services contract indicates that such statin prescribing may become a quality indicator.
I wonder whether the money could be better spent or if we should abandon the little evidence based medicine we currently have?
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