Black tonometer and heart isolated on white

by Dr. Brownstein
Holistic Medicine

In the New York Times (Friday, September 18. 2015), a large-font headline proclaimed, “Jardiance, a Diabetes Drug, Cut Cardiovascular Deaths by 38%, Study Says.”  The accompanying article goes on to state, “For the first time, a widely used modern diabetes drug has been shown to reduce deaths from cardiovascular disease, a long-sought goal of treatment, researchers announced on Thursday.  In a clinical trial, the drug—Jardiance, sold jointly by Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim–reduced the overall risk of {dying from cardiovascular complications by 38 percent}.”

The article continued with the usual platitudes about how this was a “…landmark result”.   Analysts estimated that, due in large part to this study, Jardiance sales will reach $2.7 billion in 2020.

For over 30 years, drug companies have been trying to show that treating diabetes with diabetic drugs will lower the risk for cardiovascular disease.  Unfortunately, oral diabetic drugs have never been shown to have cardiovascular benefits.  In fact there are many studies, some dating back decades ago, that the use of oral diabetic drugs increases the risk of cardiovascular complications and death.  Therefore, if this study holds up, Big Pharma could have a pot of gold on their hands.

So, does this study really lower cardiovascular deaths by 38%?  The study, paid for by Lilly and Boehringer, involved 7,000 people with Type 2 diabetes who already had cardiovascular disease.  Therefore, the subjects were already at an increased risk for strokes and heart attacks.  The subjects were randomly designed to receive either Jardiance or a placebo.

After a median follow-up of three years, 3.7 percent of those taking Jardiance died from cardiovascular complications compared with 5.9 percent of those taking a placebo.  How the heck did they get a 38 percent reduction as stated in the headline?

The 38 percent reduction comes from using the less-than-accurate relative risk analysis (3.7 percent divided by 5.9 percent).  I have written many times about why Big Pharma uses relative risk analyses in their studies. Why do they use the relative risk instead of the more accurate absolute risk?  The answer is simple:  Reporting the data as the relative risk makes a poorly-performing drug look much better than it actually is.  Health care providers should never make a decision on whether a drug therapy is viable based on relative risk data.  They should be using the more-accurate absolute risk analysis.

So, what is the absolute risk analysis from this study?  Simply subtracting 3.7 percent from 5.9 percent provides the absolute risk difference which is 2.2 percent.  So, the headline in the NYTs should have read, “Diabetes Drug Cuts Cardiovascular Deaths by 2.2%.”  That would be an accurate description of the effectiveness of this drug, based on the data in this study, at lowering cardiovascular deaths.

How many people would need to take Jardiance to prevent one cardiovascular death?  According to the data in this study, 45 people would need to take Jardiance for three years to prevent one cardiovascular death.  That means the drug failed 98% (44 out of 45) who took it.  And, keep in mind, that the drug (and others in its class) are associated with severe side effects such as bone fractures and a dangerous acid buildup in the blood.  Furthermore, the drug costs $350 per month.  Therefore, a drug that fails 98% who take it would cost $567,000 to save one life—assuming that 45 people took it for three years.  And, that exorbitant price does not include other costs–such as doctor visits and costs due to adverse effects.

Who would take this drug (or any drug) if they were properly informed that the drug failed 98 percent of those who took it?

How does this misinformation about prescription drugs continue to happen?  It happens because 99%–I am being conservative here–of health care providers are innumerate.  In other words, they do not understand basic statistics.  For many years now, Big Pharma has been pulling the wool over the eyes of doctors.  Doctors are simply not knowledgeable enough to understand how Big Pharma has altered the statistics to make their mediocre drugs look much better than they really are.  That is the reason we spend nearly 20% of our gross national product on health care—more than two-fold higher than the next Western country—and, compared to other Western countries, we finish dead last on every health indicator.

Folks, it is up to you to do your own research on whether a particular drug therapy is right for you.  You simply cannot depend on the main stream media or your health care provider (in most cases) to properly counsel you.

More information about relative risk, absolute risk and the problems with the most commonly used drugs can be found in my book, “Drugs That Don’t Work and Natural Therapies That Do.”


Read the full article here.