While most relish in the principles of a free press, Albert Camus notes how this liberty can be detrimental if information is not properly communicated, or the press itself attempts to generate the news with titillating headlines—especially when patient care is involved.
Much negative press was directed at Vytorin in 2008 with the release of the ENHANCE and SEAS trials, and while those results are still being examined, the FDA quelled some of the concerns this week. After a one-year review of the ENHANCE trial results, the agency reported that while there was no significant difference in carotid artery thickness between patients taking Vytorin and those taking Zocor, it did manage to lower LDL levels. Therefore, the regulators encouraged patients to continue taking the statin pending the results from IMPROVE-IT.
A follow-up study to another statin trial, which received a great deal of press coverage, revealed that if current guidelines adopt the recommendations of the JUPITER researchers, an additional 11 million Americans may become eligible for statin therapy. The Yale researchers also uncovered a more disconcerting fact—fewer than 42 percent of older Americans who currently qualify for statin therapy actually receive it, which speaks to the need for improved care of the prevailing at-risk patient population.
As press-worthy as JUPITER has become, many physicians have questioned and admired its methodology, in particular its examination of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein as a biomarker in low-risk individuals. For instance, when the New England Journal of Medicine asked its readers if the study would change their practice, nearly 500 people responded. In response to JUPITER, physicians are proposing new biomarkers be examined as valid means for evaluating risk factors—such as this week’s commentary from Seattle cardiologist Dr. Sarah Speck, who speculates about lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A 2 as a new biomarker candidate.
As Camus suggests, freedoms can be used for virtuous or unscrupulous means. Ideally, a free press will only lead us towards more truth in medical care, because as the French philosopher and novelist says, “freedom is nothing but a chance to be better.”
On these topics, or any other, feel free to contact me.
Justine Cadet, News Editor