"How is it possible for a drug to have $4 billion in sales without any evidence of benefit?" -Harlan Krumholz, a cardiologist at Yale University on Merck’s Zetia.
Once again a study comparing Merck’s (MRK) cholesterol drug Zetia, this time to Abbott Labs’ (ABT) Niaspan, has demonstrated that Zetia failed to reduce arterial plaque buildup. And like previous studies, more participants experienced a cardiovascular event ranging from heart attack, heart surgery, or death from heart problems from taking Zetia.
Merck disputed the results of the study funded by Abbott Labs presented Sunday night at the American Heart Association conference in Orlando, calling the trial “scientifically inadequate.” Abbott’s Niaspan is a proprietary extended-release version of niacin (vitamin B3) that unlike the vitamin doesn’t cause the severe facial flushing that result when niacin is taken at doses large enough to raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
Merck keeps reminding everyone that Zetia and its other cholesterol drug Vytorin (a combination of Zetia and Zocor), lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. Zetia and Vytorin may lower LDL cholesterol, but what is more important: lowering a person’s LDL cholesterol number or improving the clinical outcome of reduced cardiac events? This is like choosing the football player that gains the most yards but suffers the most fumbles. The goal line is to reduce cardiac events, not simply to improve your stats. This certainly gives a whole new meaning to “getting to goal.”
Since all cholesterol drugs carry serious side effects, it is critical that government funded non-industry connected research determine which treatments are most effective at reducing/preventing cardiovascular events for the lowest cost.
You would think that the American Heart Association (AHA) would share this objective, but as this table shows, their loyalties are to the pharmaceutical and medical device industry, especially to the companies who contribute the most money to the AHA. AHA spokesman and former president Robert Eckel said the organization’s stance is that “there is no evidence the drug does harm,” and he “sees no reasoning to be concerned about using Zetia for LDL lowering.” I wonder if the AHA’s opinion has anything to do with the fact that after acquiring Schering-Plough, Merck has overtaken Pfizer (PFE) as the number one pharma contributor to the AHA.
The Sun rules the heart and the Moon rules the breasts. Yesterday’s New Moon in Scorpio squaring Jupiter and Neptune in Aquarius uncovered intense emotional reactions to the revelations of ineffective diagnostics and pharmaceuticals.
Saturn in Libra challenging Pluto in Capricorn reflects that even if Congress fails to pass healthcare reform, medical spending cannot continue on its current trajectory. Saturn restricts, and Saturn in Libra will force the government to decide what treatments provide the biggest benefit at the lowest cost that would fairly benefit the greatest number of people. At first the government will try to negotiate with providers but in the end the government will be forced to take charge and dictate what treatments it will pay for at what cost. Pluto rules insurance, and health insurance companies will negotiate harder with providers and end up following government recommended guidelines even without healthcare reform if they want to survive. Saturn and Capricorn relate to elderly people and Pluto rules reproduction and death. Saturn challenging Pluto means that hard choices have to be made as healthcare in America will be transformed no matter what.
Jupiter represents ideological and religious beliefs and Neptune rules drugs, charities, and brainwashing. Saturn and Pluto represent the powerful corporate interests that fund these consumer friendly sounding charitable organizations. These special interests have done a brilliant job of deluding and manipulating the public into believing that the best healthcare consists of spending the most money on the most tests and treatments.
Nowhere do all the special interests intersect more than the breast cancer industrial complex. This mega industry consists of oncologists, radiologists, imaging equipment makers, surgeons, drugs, etc. along with all these organizations with their pink ribbons that are not only funded by the medical industry, but all the other companies pushing food to cosmetics to apparel and pink toasters. Neptune rules glamour and with a little help from Hollywood, breast cancer has become a big, glamorous business.
Yesterday the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force published guidelines in the Annals of Internal Medicine that it is unnecessary for women to get annual mammograms starting at age 40 (the new recommendation is every other year for age 50-74; no recommendation for 75+). The new guidelines also advise doctors to abstain from teaching women how to perform breast self exams due to lack of evidence. The media (who receives their own largesse from industry participants) are reporting a backlash has erupted over the guidelines. Neptune is about the art of illusion and all the brainwashing that has made many women feel like they’re “victims” even though current mammogram guidelines show no more effectiveness than the new reduced guidelines.
Yesterday’s news about Zetia and mammograms reflects the difficulty in trying to change the business of medicine where practitioners and equipment providers have a vested interest. Overuse of medicine is so inbred in our society that any attempts at usage reduction are meeting with strong consumer objections even when overuse is detrimental to the health of these consumers. Yet people continue to take a costly cholesterol drug that does not prevent heart disease and are willing to subject themselves to so much radiation exposure from getting so many mammograms that they develop breast cancer from it.
Neptune ruling the Scorpio New Moon chart* and Uranus in Pisces conjoining the chart’s Ascendant,** should shock the nation into waking up to how healthcare in America has been hijacked by corporate and “charitable” interests who are doing nothing but bankrupting our bodies and our bank accounts. We need healthcare reform so every American has health insurance. However, that does not mean Americans are entitled to every test and treatment available regardless whether it has been shown to be effective unless a person is willing to pay for such treatments 100% out of pocket.
The Sun is our physical vitality and it rules the sector of the Scorpio New Moon chart representing healthcare. The Sun rules Leo, and Mars in Leo conjoining the health sector shows this is where we need to focus our energy by taking charge of our own health.
Mars rules inflammation which weakens the immune system, potentially setting the stage for a cardiovascular event or cancer cells to multiply and attach themselves to a breast. (The Moon and the sign Cancer the crab rule the breasts. Just like the crab, cancer tenaciously attaches its claws to body tissue, spreading them to expand its home base.***)
Saturn challenging Pluto is about taking responsibility and control over your body and not allowing yourself to be manipulated by the medical industrial complex. The key to maintaining good health is to have a strong immune system. Here are some simple and inexpensive steps that everyone can take to do this:
Eliminate all processed foods and drink. Cancer feeds on sugar (this is why you intake a sugar solution before undergoing a PET scan so the cancerous tissue can be seen).
Cutting out coffee and caffeinated tea will lower your blood pressure.
Drink lots of water.
If you eat meat, buy grass fed beef.
Exercise regularly and incorporate as much walking as possible into your daily schedule; soak up a bit of Sun each day.
Keep to a regular schedule getting up and going to sleep each day.
Set aside time each day for relaxation and/or meditation to reduce stress.
With the Sun, Moon, Mercury and Venus in Scorpio in the sector of the New Moon chart that is Scorpio’s natural domain, we have the power to transform our bodies (Sun) through the power of our mind (Mercury) by eating unprocessed food and drink (Moon). And in the process we’ll become more attractive (Venus) to ourselves and to others.
*November 16, 2009 2:14 PM EST Washington, DC
**The Ascendant is the zodiac sign rising on the eastern horizon at the time of the New Moon.
***This does not imply that people who have the Sun and other planets in Cancer will develop cancer.