The airing of an ABC program has led 60,000 people to reduce or cease taking statins.
A study which was published in The Medical Journal of Australia, conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney, has found that around 60,000 people have reduced or stopped taking their statin medication since the airing of a 2013 two-part documentary series on the ABC science program Catalyst.
The two-part program, Heart of the Matter, was watched by almost 1.5 million Australians. The program claimed that the link between saturated fat, cholesterol and heart disease was "the biggest myth in medical history". The program also described statin medication as “toxic”, using statistics that were later refuted and quoting experts who had conflicts of interest.
Researchers examined the PBS records of 191,833 people between July 2009 and June 2014. In the eight months immediately following the broadcast of the Catalyst episode, they found that approximately 60,897 fewer people filled their statin prescriptions. However, the study found that as of mid-2014, the rate at which statin medication was being dispensed had remained unchanged.
“If patients continue to avoid statins over the next five years, this could result in between 1,522 and 2,900 preventable, and potentially fatal, heart attacks and strokes,” the study concluded.
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While television programs and magazines may give you insights and make you question your medications, when it comes to potentially life altering medical advice, there is no substitute for the opinion of a medical professional.
The ABC is normally known for producing programs of the highest quality, based on well-researched expert opinion and accurate information, so it was a reasonable assumption by viewers that they could accept on face value the findings and conclusions in the two-part documentary. Unfortunately this time, the ABC failed its viewers, but acknowledged that there were problems with the program and removed it from its online streaming service iview.
What is most troubling to me is that the study found a reduced use of statins in patients who were being dispensed medication for diabetes, a group at higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
As with anything important in life, always seek a second opinion.
What do you think? Should the ABC be held responsible for the airing of inaccurate information? Did you see the program? Did you stop using statin medication as a result?