New England Journal of Medicine Editorial: Vytorin and Zetia may not work, and should only be prescribed as a last resort

Here’s the latest news on Vytorin and Zetia, two drugs that are widely prescribed as cholesterol-lowering agents.

We repeat some of the suggestions we made when the failings of these two drugs were first revealed: consider such alternatives as statins plus niacin*; or a supplement based on plant sterols and other components, Cardio Edge from Douglas Labs.

* See NYBC entries for Niacin 100mg (recommended as initial dose to minimize “flushing”) and Niacin Timed-Release / Niatab 500mg, the full-strength dose.
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Journal Issues Warning on Two Cholesterol Drugs
New YorK Times
By ALEX BERENSON
Published: March 30, 2008

CHICAGO — Two widely prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs, Vytorin and Zetia, may not work and should be used only as a last resort, The New England Journal of Medicine said in an editorial published on Sunday.

The journal’s conclusion came as doctors at a major cardiology conference in Chicago saw for the first time the full results of a two-year clinical trial that showed that the drugs failed to slow, and might have even sped up, the growth of fatty plaques in the arteries. Growth of those plaques is closely correlated with heart attacks and strokes.

We accessed the full story at http://www.nytimes.com on 3/30/2008.

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New England Journal of Medicine article: Pharmaceutical companies don’t publish studies that show antidepressants less effective

The New York Times – January 17, 2008
Antidepressant Studies Unpublished
By BENEDICT CAREY
The makers of antidepressants like Prozac and Paxil never published the results of about a third of the drug trials that they conducted to win government approval, misleading doctors and consumers about the drugs’ true effectiveness, a new analysis has found.
In published trials, about 60 percent of people taking the drugs report significant relief from depression, compared with roughly 40 percent of those on placebo pills. But when the less positive, unpublished trials are included, the advantage shrinks: the drugs outperform placebos, but by a modest margin, concludes the new report, which appears Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

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Pharmaceutical companies mislead the public about the effectiveness of their prescription antidepressants.

That’s the bottom line of this New York Times story, which reports on an investigation published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week.
Well, not surprising. We knew that the FDA drug approval process, which ideally should represent a gold standard in evaluating the effectiveness and safety of medicines, has been seriously compromised by its dependence on pharmaceutical company-funded research.
And, we think we know why there’s comparatively little public attention given to some very substantial research showing that such dietary supplements as DHEA, SAM-e, St. Johns Wort may be useful for depression. These are supplements, not patentable drugs, so the pharmaceutical companies can’t establish exclusive rights to them and charge enormous sums for their distribution.
If you’d like to take a look at some of the evidence about dietary supplements for depression, look under the “Depression” category of this blog, or refer to the information sheet on depression from the New York Buyers’ Club.