The Lancet Statin Study

On Friday 9th September 2016, an article was published in The Lancet with a quite extraordinary editorial. The full article can be seen here and the editorial is here. The editorial has been brilliantly dissected by Dr Malcolm Kendrick here, so I won’t cover that in this note.

The newspaper headlines were glowing “Statins prevent 80,000 heart attacks and strokes a year in UK, study finds“ and “A third of adults should take statins, new research suggests”. Taking out a full page advert, in every UK newspaper, could not have been more favourable.

The group behind the study is the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists (CTT), which is co-ordinated by the Clinical Trial Service Unit (CTSU). The first thing that you need to know about the CTSU is that the spat that the CTSU leader, Rory Collins, kicked off with the BMJ in 2014 led to him having to declare the previously well-hidden pharmaceutical funding enjoyed by the CTSU. This added up to £268m – give or take a few hundred thousand – and the sum is no doubt higher two years on.

A more discerning headline, therefore, could have been “Team paid c. £300m by statin makers finds statins are miracle drugs with miraculously negligible side-effects.”

The study

I won’t be able to do my usual dissection of this article, just as I have never previously been able to do my usual dissection of any article that emanates from the CTSU. After their May 2012 article, entitled “The effects of lowering LDL cholesterol with statin therapy in people at low risk of vascular disease: meta-analysis of individual data from 27 randomised trials”, I asked CTT for their raw data:

 

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