Home > Boneheaded stupidity, Science > Hand it back: Catalyst edition

Hand it back: Catalyst edition

October 31st, 2013

In a recent post, I observed that “Anyone with a university education ought to be able to recognise the limits of their own expertise, and to be able to distinguish between bogus sources of information and the products of genuine peer-reviewed research.” Sadly, the ABC’s Catalyst program appears to be failing that test, judging from the first episode of their report, attempting a debunking of the claims that elevated cholesterol causes heart disease, and that statins reduce the risk of disease. I looked at the evidence on this when I started taking statins around 20 years ago, and it seemed pretty convincing. In the last few years, with intensive exercise, I’ve reduced my cholesterol and stopped taking medication, so I think I can look at this fairly objectively.

As I said, before regarding someone’s opinion as having weight, you need to check whether they have any reason for claiming authority[1]. A quick visit to Google reveals the following info on the medical “scientists” quoted in the program

*”Stephen T. Sinatra is a board certified cardiologist, nutritionist, and anti-aging specialist specializing in integrative medicine. He is also a certified bioenergetic psychotherapist”

* Jonny Bowden – The Rogue Nutritionist is a weight loss coach

* Michael Eades is the biggest prat in the diet industry (alert: possibly not a neutral source).

* Ernest Curtis publishes not in medical journals but on LewRockwell.com

AFAICT, none of them has ever published scientific research in a peer-reviewed journal (still need to check this more carefully). I’m going to watch Part II now. But based on Part I, I’d say everyone involved should hand back their degrees.

Update The second episode was an improvement on the first. At least it quoted real scientists who have done actual research, and provided something like links to the real stuff (not sure if that will show up in transcript). And the general problems of research funded by drug companies are real enough. OTOH, at least one of the experts quoted against statins was described as a litigation expert, which suggests that the bad incentives aren’t all on one side. An interview with someone from the Heart Foundation was a welcome element of balance, but looked to me to have been edited in a way that gave a misleading picture of what (I imagine) was actually said.

Moreover, given the stress on drug company profits, the show might have taken a minute to point out that both simvastatin (Zocor) and atorvastatin (Lipitor) are now off-patent. There’s been some dispute over whether Australia has moved fast enough to cut the price paid for Lipitor and to encourage the prescribing of cheap generic versions, but the days of statins as a cash cow are already receding. That doesn’t preclude the possibility that its advocates are locked into positions taken previously, but it does cast some doubt on the continuing relevance of financial incentives.

fn1. As I grow tired of pointing out to people who have a misunderstood high school lessons in logic, the alternative to rejecting unqualified “experts” out of hand is not to look at the evidence they present and “make up your own mind”. It’s to undertake the years of intensive study needed to master the subject, then assess the evidence and make up your own mind.

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  1. zoot
    October 31st, 2013 at 20:20 | #1

    Doesn’t elevated cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease (not cause heart disease)? I remember Dr Norman Swan explaining this on RN’s Health Report.

  2. jon frankis
    October 31st, 2013 at 20:27 | #2

    … it may come as a surprise to anyone who cares enough to know what a supporter I am of climate scientists, but here in this case I’m keen to out myself as a sceptic of the medical science that I thought was pretty nicely criticised by the last Catalyst episode.

    In the first instance, before going off to do the hard research work of looking into the absurdity of some of the claims made by the pharmaceutical industry and its many doctors, people would I suggest do well to again look simply at the money.

    As in climate sciencewhere the side of the angels turns out to be opposed by the enormous wealth of the fossil fuel industry so in medical/pharmaceutical matters … where is the big money made?

    In short.

  3. zoot
    October 31st, 2013 at 20:32 | #3

    The quote I remembered is

    The message is that paradoxically you don’t take statins to lower your cholesterol. You take them to lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke if that risk is sufficiently high.

    From the Health Report March 5 2012.

  4. October 31st, 2013 at 20:33 | #4

    I had my doubts after watching the 1st edition last week. One should exercise some skepticism before overturning the existing wisdom.

    However, you also have to keep in mind the resistance that ideas like mosquitoes causing yellow fever, and heliobacter causing stomach ulcers generated.

    As someone carrying a bit too much weight, I can see the attraction in not believing that croissants are bad for me.

  5. October 31st, 2013 at 20:37 | #5

    On this one, the debate I have come across wasn’t so much as to whether statins lowered cholesterol levels as to whether that flowed through to better heart disease outcomes on the one hand and to acceptable levels of side effects on the other hand. Certainly, the only data point I personally have is, knowing someone who suffered excruciatingly painful side effects from statins that took a long time to be connected to their cause, and who has since died anyway.

  6. jon frankis
    October 31st, 2013 at 20:38 | #6

    Five minutes into the second episode of Catalyst and it’s still looking to be right on the money to me …

  7. ZM
    October 31st, 2013 at 21:10 | #7

    “fn1. As I grow tired of pointing out to people who have a misunderstood high school lessons in logic, the alternative to rejecting unqualified “experts” out of hand is not to look at the evidence they present and “make up your own mind”. It’s to undertake the years of intensive study needed to master the subject, then assess the evidence and make up your own mind.”

    I am not sure with this if you take umbrage with people who claim authority of one kind or another or with the people who are left to try to discern the competing claims of those who claim authority.

    As someone who can claim no authority, I would like to defend the latter.

    Often people need to make up their minds about a number of things within timeframes in which they do not have the time to look at all the evidence presented by various sorts of people, let alone to undertake years of intensive study under various sorts of professors to come to their own educated conclusions about *everything they need to make their minds up about* which might not even be things they would choose to know about in any case – we must vote, we must make various choices.

    As you comment from a democratic perspective I can only think you support people making up their minds on things as best they can, but perhaps this is wrong – the combination of socialism and democratic confuses me somewhat I admit – what if one conflicts with another? If someone makes false claims that are decided to be against the social good by people holding authority, perhaps they could be outlawed from socialist perspective? Whereas from a democratic perspective if someone was to make false claims, I suppose it would simply be up to the majority of people as to whether it should be outlawed or allowed?

  8. jon frankis
    October 31st, 2013 at 21:14 | #8

    OK just for the record John, because I have the respect I do for your opinions and you’ve been so critical of this program – having watched the second episode now my opinion is that it is two excellent episodes of work. In my opinion much credit is due DeMasi, and the comments of the witnesses on the sceptical side of the arguments aired in the program accord entirely with my own prejudices on the subject (having looked at the medical science for a couople of decades now).

    Just my opinion, for the record, for what it’s worth.

  9. rog
    October 31st, 2013 at 21:35 | #9

    I was disappointed that the program did not touch on the large number of independent clinical and landmark trials supportive of the use of statins (or maybe they did, I did nod off).

    I look forward to more exposes eg radiation from powerlines/mobile phones/microwave ovens and cancer.

  10. rog
    October 31st, 2013 at 22:15 | #10

    Dr Demasi said

    Unless you’ve already been diagnosed with heart disease, then taking a statin won’t help you live longer.

    This is flawed, some argue that heart disease (eg atherosclerosis) can be present, without symptoms, in teenagers yet does not manifest for decades. Waiting for a cardiac event before prescribing medication is a bit like waiting for a fire before buying a fire extinguisher.

  11. Fred Struth
    October 31st, 2013 at 22:16 | #11

    There seems to be an inverse relationship between expertise and media celebrity, in that the more prominent a media celebrity is in posing as an expert and appearing in mainstream media then the less accurate they are in their knowledge and predictions and similarly too with the flashier and more tabloid a science program is.

    Its sort of a conundrum in deciding which programs are worth consideration not being an expert program evaluator. So i use rules of thumb to decide which to avoid.
    If the program uses quick flashing video special effects (an insidious technique originally from commercial TV and marketing, added in post production to create a trance like psychological effect) or meaningless sound effects or general pre-digested verbiage of the type that infests the mainstream media then it’s off my viewing list, which given the current standards means that there are very few programs worth watching, which is probably a good thing because you can learn far more from your time reading rather than the same amount of time watching a linear video.

    Personally I want the expert scientific conclusions first then the details. I don’t want to sit through half an hour of posturing narcissistic media prima donnas with or without their doctorates. And i don’t know about you but frankly i would prefer an expert scientist that looks like the back of a truck rather than these posing pretty boys and girls to be dispensing knowledge to me thank you very much.

    Whenever I see one of these professional journalistic media types on television i realise just how fraudulent they are. Try it yourself, just watch them closely, their off centre position in the screen, the meaningless hand gestures, the bizarre head movements, all to conceal that they are reading from a script offscreen. Firstly they can’t remember their lines and secondly they are lying about it, continuously. They might as well wear a T-shirt saying “we are deceiving you and we are arrogant enough to believe that you’re dumb enough not to notice or to care” which judging by some of the popular programmes purporting to represent reality may not be far from the mark.

    Anyway the thing about television science programs and documentaries is that they allow ignorant people to feel that they are knowledgeable about a subject simply by sitting on their couch and passively consuming it. Catalyst is better than many but way short of good enough for a credulous public particularly in this instance. Perhaps their standards would appreciate from an organised response.

  12. rog
    October 31st, 2013 at 22:22 | #12

    Anecdotal evidence such as that provided by “Edward” was another flaw. Placebo effect anyone?

  13. October 31st, 2013 at 23:19 | #13

    I think perhaps there is a straw man type argument going on here. And I say that without watching the 2nd episode…

    Say you have blood pressure that is mildly high. This is a risk factor for heart disease. It might double your risk. But if your other risk factors are low, it might be doubling your risk from 1/1000 to 1/500. So do you take medication for your blood pressure? Well no, because at considerable expense and with possible side effects, you’ll end up lowering your risk back to ~1/1000. Which really isn’t worth it.

    But if you have a family history of heart disease, are a smoker, have high cholesterol, are obese and live a sedentary lifestyle, and have high blood pressure – then taking blood pressure medication might reduce your risk of an adverse event from 1/5 to 1/10. And that could very well be worth it.

    Doctors know this, and aren’t going to suggest medical treatment for a low risk situation.

    So if the show was attacking the use of statins by people with low risk of heart disease, I’m not surprised. But if it is attacking the use of statins by people at a high risk of heart disease, I’d be surprised and would want to look into it.

  14. Donald Oats
    November 1st, 2013 at 00:38 | #14

    While I’m somewhat sympathetic to the (general) issue being presented in the two Catalyst episodes, I’m less sympathetic to the choice of “specialists” used to provide evidence of problems with statins. Going against the grain requires a pretty high standard of analysis to support the assertion, especially for a science show running a two-part special on the one topic.

    In the second episode, I found the idea that it was reasonable to suppose that patients complaining of problems while using the medication could be explained away as “placebo effect” as particularly galling. It is the age old problem of trust the doctor, not your own body. Sure, some small subset of affected patients might be falsely believing that they have a health problem—and it is caused by a particular medication, but to attribute that as though it is the most likely explanation in general, is breathtakingly audacious—and boneheadedly stupid.

    Like Edward, I suffered peripheral pain in the lower legs and feet to the extent that I could barely walk, and had that for about a year. Stopped a particular medication, and the problem slowly resolved. Imagined? Real? And then there is the issue that since then, I have started using a different combination of medications (including a statin), so it could have even been an interaction of a previous combination of medications that resulted in the severe foot and lower leg pain, rather than a single medication; who would even know? I’d be pretty pissed off if a doctor explained it away as “placebo effect” though.

    Finally, now that I have been exposed to a significant number of different classes of medications over several years, I can say that for myself, at least, I now expect a good 30% chance of significant side effects from any new medication I’m prescribed, all other things being equal. In a few cases, I have ended up in hospital due to side effects, and in one case due to acute allergic reaction. If I believe the statistics as issued in the drug trial stats, a less than 1% chance is expected for getting some of the side effects that I suffered from, for the given medication. One side effect was listed as < 0.01%. Now, perhaps I'm genetically buggered up and that explains it, or…side effect statistics are woefully biased in a downwards direction, whether by poor experimental designs, or by restricting the design to initially exclude patients who seem to suffer side effects, or by deliberate manipulation of published results. Whatever the case, my personal experience is that side effects are rarely discussed but are relatively frequent, and at a severe enough level to cause some health problems distinct from the original condition.

  15. Donald Oats
    November 1st, 2013 at 00:49 | #15

    As John Brookes says, prescribing a medication to lower an already very low risk of heart disease is unlikely to be a net benefit; prescribing a medication where it can lower a high risk (eg for a patient with multiple risk factors) to a moderate risk is probably worthwhile. But there needs to be good evidence of the effects, and drug trials are not really designed in a way that allows that sort of evidence to be extracted. Some drug trials accept patients who are using other medication for the same condition as the trial drug’s purpose, so that is probably going to confound it. One trial I’m aware of allowed a pain medication to be used while testing another medication for pain: I’m still scratching my head over how that could provide reliable data for robust conclusions—in theory it is possible, but in reality I doubt it very much.

  16. rog
    November 1st, 2013 at 04:39 | #16

    Dr Abramson

    We’re missing the message: that health rarely comes out of a bottle. Exercise and a Mediterranean-style diet is the best way to prevent heart disease. I think virtually everybody agrees with that. Now, it’s very clear that when you look at the effects of exercise, they’re far more powerful than statins.

    What is in agreement by virtually everybody is that high cholesterol is associated with heart disease and research has shown that the Mediterranean style diet and/or exercise can lower cholesterol. There is still heart disease amongst those who follow particular diet and exercise regimes but it is at a reduced rate.

    For those people who, irrespective of diet and exercise, continue to show high levels of cholesterol other methods are required.

  17. rog
    November 1st, 2013 at 04:39 | #17

    Dr Abramson

    We’re missing the message: that health rarely comes out of a bottle. Exercise and a Mediterranean-style diet is the best way to prevent heart disease. I think virtually everybody agrees with that. Now, it’s very clear that when you look at the effects of exercise, they’re far more powerful than statins.

    What is in agreement by virtually everybody is that high cholesterol is associated with heart disease and research has shown that the Mediterranean style diet and/or exercise can lower cholesterol. There is still heart disease amongst those who follow particular diet and exercise regimes but it is at a reduced rate.

    For those people who, irrespective of diet and exercise, continue to show high levels of cholesterol other methods are required.

  18. Ikonoclast
    November 1st, 2013 at 06:14 | #18

    Getting science from television is like getting free oxygen from the moon… or legal sense and good governance from Campbell Newman.

  19. Donald Oats
    November 1st, 2013 at 06:53 | #19

    In Statins, Dr Ian Hamilton-Craig gives a reasonable summary of the overall case for using statins, along with statistics for side effects and what can exacerbate the side effects (near the end of the article).

  20. wilc
    November 1st, 2013 at 10:22 | #20

    I suppose I am biased, but i do not trust the pharmaceutical industry to be honest and truthful.

    I my view the pharmaceutical industry has only one goal and that is to generate the highest return to shareholders as possible, with the health and welfare of humanity being no more that a business opportunity.

    With so many medical professionals and medical research professionals being funded wholly or partly by the pharmaceutical industry, can we trust them to be unbiased? Personally I don’t unless there is full disclosure of their interests in the subject matter. For them my health is an income stream and nothing else.

    I say this as my Father was unfortunate enough to have been prescribed Vioxx, it nearly killed him first up and he was bedridden until he died 4 years later. My experience with the pharmaceutical industry and medical profession is not a trusting one.

    Good on catalyst … lets have the discussion, if we had it about Vioxx , maybe a lot more people would be alive today.

  21. jon frankis
    November 1st, 2013 at 10:44 | #21

    I’d like to emphasize the one simple point: in both climate science, specifically debate over the effect of humanity’s energy habits on the health of the planet, and medical science on the question of the effect of plasma cholesterol levels on our personal health, there is a vast wealth imbalance across the divide such that one side in each debate has collectively a large vested interest in needing to believe its own nonsense (I mean “arguments”).

    No comment to what extent any particular individual in said debates need necessarily be aware of their own subconscious biases in defending a position they’ve taken, & equally no condemnation of anyone as necessarily being corrupted by the fact of the earning of income from their membership of a profession or “guild”. On the other hand it’s clearly naive to ignore the effect of vested interest on expressed personal opinion – isn’t it?

    That’s the simple point to understand, while medical science is harder to grok. Years harder. Thanks 🙂

  22. punditjohn
    November 1st, 2013 at 10:58 | #22

    I am sorry to be nitpicking Mr Quiggin but you do seem to invite pendantry with

    “As I grow tired of pointing out to people who have a misunderstood high school lessons in logic, the alternative to rejecting unqualified “experts” out of hand is not to look at the evidence they present and “make up your own mind”. It’s to undertake the years of intensive study needed to master the subject, then assess the evidence and make up your own mind. ”

    I don’t know if you have spent time in court, maybe as an expert witness, or maybe just learned it over the lunch or dinner table, but you may be aware of the quite different approach that experienced barristers and judges often take, especially when having trouble concealing the contempt they often feel for academics who stray beyond their very narrow area of precise expertise or show defective logic. (I was taken to a medico-legal event once where a very distinguished judge ripped into expert witnesses generically).

    The point is that counsel have to get up enough of the subject to be able to examine, cross-examine and present arguments to the court on matters which could be very technical indeed, not least in patent cases but also in one’s involving matters of engineering judgment for another set of examples. They go through the business of preparing witnesses (that’s the US version anyway, but obviously counsel, even in the old UK tradition of not speaking to witnesses but relying on their instructors’ briefing, have to go through what their expert witnesses will be able to testify to with them and they have to ask questions until they understand) and of getting up the material for cross-examination. The judge, or indeed judges on appeal, sometimes solely on transcripts, have to make sense of the expert evidence and pronounce judgment. It helps if they have once got first class honours in physics or even like the famous Court of Appeal in the UK about 120 years ago, had three Cambridge Wranglers on the bench. But the point is that judgment is arrived at and not committed to some opinion poll of self-described or even genuinely worthy experts in a field.

    I would hate to put someone like you Mr Quiggin, who, I believe, has first class honours in mathematics in your CV, into the same category as Prof (of something or other) Clive Williams or the engaging blowhard and enthusiast Tim Flannery but just think what would happen to any cause they stood for if they had to face sustained cross-examination by a leader of the Bar on the opinions they proffer so confidently. And then, please let on your private thoughts about how you would like to face up to serious cross-examination in support of your view that we ought to be acting now in all sorts of expensive ways to reduce Australia’s CO2 emissions. Wouldn’t you rather be the expert, numerate, economist who prepped the counsel assisting on arguments about the timing and magnitude of Australia’s efforts?

    Before seeking further to tap your expertise let me share the horror that I am sure you must have felt at the failings of all – lawyers and judge not least – to rumble that appalling fraud Sir Roy Meadows whose evidence led to a young solicitor mother going to gaol for murdering her child. Didn’t it make your skin do whatever it is meant to do when one learns of something horrible that one can do nothing about when what Meadows said was allowed to go through to the keeper. That is that there was only a one in 84 million chance that the sequence of cot deaths could have occurred without malign human intervention. How could they all have failed to have the elementary thought that some underlying genetic or chromosomal or similar problem would make it much more likely that there would be a subsequent cot death?

    But, back to your expertise and my questions. No, I’ll leave that for another time but I would like to know who you think have authoritative opinions on climate change, its causes, its likely problems for us and the rest of the world and, perhaps separately, the economic costs and benefits of various courses on various assumptions. (A scientist who is not a sceptic told me recently that Matt Ridley was right and that, up to 2 per cent global warming, which might be reached by 2080, would be good for world GDP per capita – for Australia he didn’t say).

    If one chooses to put one’s faith in some group how are they to be distinguished from the medical and pharmaceutical mafias who publish so much later falsified (but sadly much later usually) pretended breakthroughs and support for so long so many errors? I remember an eye surgeon once telling me to beware the surgeons who had spent a lot of money and time learning to do radial keratotomies but to wait for laser treatment to be perfected. He knew perfectly well how much money talks in mid-career. What do you make of the fact that so many of the climate sceptics are Em Profs and other retired people, it being longer true that God’s use-by date marks the onset of senility?

  23. Tim Macknay
    November 1st, 2013 at 11:31 | #23

    Prof Q, what’s your opinion of the work of John Ioannidis?

    I haven’t watched either of the Catalyst episodes, so I can’t venture an opinion of them, but Ioannidis’ work certainly suggests that, as a general proposition, research findings into the efficacy of drugs should be treated with considerable caution.

    That doesn’t change the fact that sound arguments and evidence are required to challenge an established scientific consensus, of course, but it does suggest that, in much medical research, consensus positions based on research results are not as firm as they appear.

  24. punditjohn
    November 1st, 2013 at 11:43 | #24

    Back on original narrow-sense subject: another, possibly medico-legal, event I was taken to was addressed by a heart surgeon or cardiologist academic who seemed to know what he was talking about and, though this is now a few years back, I remember taking away the important point that the statins firmed up the structure of one’s (almost inevitable) plaques and made them much less likely to rupture. Any advances on that now I wonder?

    I think he said that it would make sense for everyone to take statins from about age 40. A pity my male forebears didn’t.

  25. Robert Merkel
    November 1st, 2013 at 11:51 | #25

    Regardless of the merits of the case against the link between cholesterol and heart disease, the first episode of that Catalyst special was a truly spectacularly bad example of scientific journalism for the reasons which John outlined, one that should frankly go close to being career-ending.

    It’s a long way from my field, but if somebody attempted the same approach to a story in my area I would be furious.

    I would say, however, that I am a little frustrated by the response of the mainstream cardiology/nutrition community. The climate science community has learned how to explain the fundamentals of its evidence base to the public (even if much of it chooses not to listen). It’s surely not impossible for them to do the same.

    Furthermore, I would note that inappropriate treatments without an evidence base which are nevertheless pushed by parts of the medical community are a real thing.

  26. punditjohn
    November 1st, 2013 at 11:55 | #26

    @Tim Macknay

    Indeed I seem to remember one David Freedman writing up the work of Ioannidis
    and also broadcasting on it when he was in Australia. Ioannidis doesn’t beat about the bush when pointing to human frailties and money motives (and limitations). One interesting point which may or may not be applicable to climate science was that space was so limited in the premier journals and funding for replication studies so minimal that a lot of bad science, or, anyway, wrong conclusions, were allowed to hang about for years for want of follow up. Who wants to fund or to publish follow up studies?

    I recall that the peer review process didn’t get enthusiastic applause. The human reality was described in believable terms though without any suggestion that there was a conceptually better model. What was most shocking was that he took just the top 40 out of perhaps 150 journals and found that only some very small proportion indeed of articles describing some discovery or advance stood the test of ten years experience. But then, the old codger might say, things have changed since my day when the local doctor would come round in his horse and buggy: why, here’s this young man, post 1950, who is happily telling you he chose medicine for the income he could earn…..

  27. Ikonoclast
    November 1st, 2013 at 11:56 | #27

    Hmmm, I wonder if all tertiary educated people denying that we have overshot the limits to growth (LTG) should hand their degrees back?

    Denying that is very much at odds with the empirical evidence and gives tacit support to the “loot it till we root it” creed of late stage capitalism.

    “… in the mid-1970s, we crossed a critical threshold: Human consumption began outstripping what the planet could reproduce.”- Global Footprint Network.

  28. John Quiggin
    November 1st, 2013 at 12:24 | #28

    @Tim Macknay

    I think Ioannides is broadly correct, though (as with the research he is criticising) the headline presentations overstate the case. The classical theory of hypothesis testing overstates the significance of “statistical signifance”. From a Bayesian viewpoint, a single study should update your prior beliefs, but usually not by very much.

  29. John Quiggin
    November 1st, 2013 at 12:31 | #29

    punditjohn :

    I don’t know if you have spent time in court, maybe as an expert witness, or maybe just learned it over the lunch or dinner table, but you may be aware of the quite different approach that experienced barristers and judges often take, especially when having trouble concealing the contempt they often feel for academics who stray beyond their very narrow area of precise expertise or show defective logic. (I was taken to a medico-legal event once where a very distinguished judge ripped into expert witnesses generically).

    As it happens, I have spent time in court as an expert witness, and faced barristers who tried this approach on me. I think it’s fair to say they came off worse for wear. Of course, I am careful to stick to my area of expertise in such matters. Even on blogs, I try to make it clear when I’m talking about my professional area of expertise and when I’m just giving an opinion on matters where there is no clearly authoritative view.

  30. Tim Macknay
    November 1st, 2013 at 12:37 | #30

    @Ikonoclast

    Hmmm, I wonder if all tertiary educated people denying that we have overshot the limits to growth (LTG) should hand their degrees back?

    Ikonoclast, I’d suggest that the evidence pretty firmly indicates that we haven’t (yet) overshot the limits to growth, since growth is still occurring. Not to say that it can’t or won’t occur, of course.

  31. ZM
    November 1st, 2013 at 13:29 | #31

    According to the internal university statute I looked at degrees can only be revoked if they are acquired fraudulently. I don’t think anyone will relinquish their degree as a matter of choice unfortunately.

    The university in its act of incorporation does have the power to revoke degrees:
    “(3) If the university statutes so provide, the Council may revoke any degree conferred or other award granted by the University, whenever conferred or granted.”
    So you could try to get the Council to enact a university statute that could revoke degrees for reasons other than being acquired fraudulently.

    Other than that, the only other way I can think of to revoke people’s degrees would be to argue that the university that granted the degree was in breach of its duties under the government act of incorporation at the time of awarding the degree.

    Eg. Was it in breach of 5(c) “(c) to undertake scholarship, pure and applied research, invention, innovation, education and consultancy of international standing and to apply those matters to the advancement of knowledge and to the benefit of the well- being of the Victorian, Australian and international communities” or 5(g) “to provide programs and services in a way that reflects principles of equity and social justice;”

  32. David
    November 1st, 2013 at 14:59 | #32

    Sounds dangerously like an intellectual elite class selecting which ideas constitues a valid argument. Next we will have a government which makes being a member of an assosciation illegal just in time for the G20….

  33. punditjohn
    November 1st, 2013 at 15:07 | #33

    @John Quiggin

    Thank you for your reply John Quiggin. Sorry about the literal that I started with, viz. “pendantry”. However much I may turn out to disagree with you I think hanging mightn’t answer any real need. Maybe burning as for heretics but hanging would be bit low class even if it too is a proven crowd puller that the anti-elitist masses could enjoy.

    I take it from your reply that you were fortunately or wisely on the winning side when you were an expert witness, or that, at least, your evidence was accepted …… by a lawyer with wig on answering to Your Honour or maybe a reasonably intelligent and educated parliamentary committee. So was the acceptance of your expert evidence something that you sneered somewhat cynically at on the ground that the chaps in wigs (particularly of course those whose experts were wrong) weren’t remotely qualified, despite your help and that of others, and all the questions, to award you the credibility prize or the reverse?

    I assume you wouldn’t approve of the Royal Commission called for by some conservative sceptics which would inquire into AGW’s science and economics and, with luck, give the multitude some confidence that the right policy prescriptions were clear or at least able to be based on uncontested or at least barely contestable facts? But what about a three person Commission made up of a retired superior court judge with a good science degree, a particle physicist who hasn’t declared his hand, and say a distinguished chemist who likewise hasn’t come down on one side or the other (or yet another!)? Counsel assisting would be acknowledged leaders of the Bar.

  34. punditjohn
    November 1st, 2013 at 15:12 | #34

    @John Quiggin
    AND, come to think of it, there should be some economic expertise on any Royal Commission but, again, not anyone who has blown his cover. Not Ross Garnaut or Lord Stern therefore and perhaps not John Stone, former Secretary of the Treasury who got a first in mathematical physics before becoming a Rhodes Scholar. I’m not sure that his physics pre-dating the Standard Model would be a relevant limitation but I think I’ve heard that he is a sceptic.

  35. Ikonoclast
    November 1st, 2013 at 15:22 | #35

    @Tim Macknay

    Tim, maybe I should have been clearer and said we have overshot the sustainable limits to growth. The “crash” (population crash) happens some time after sustainable carrying capacity is overshoot.

    “In population dynamics and population ecology, overshoot occurs when a population exceeds the long term carrying capacity of its environment. The consequence of overshoot is called a crash or die-off.” – Wikipedia.

    We are most definitely in overshoot. A crash is inevitable now.

  36. John Quiggin
    November 1st, 2013 at 16:39 | #36

    ” a particle physicist who hasn’t declared his hand, and say a distinguished chemist who likewise hasn’t come down on one side or the other (or yet another!)”

    A bit of a problem if the scientists are members of any major scientific organization, like say, the Australian Academy of Science or the American Physical Society (this can be repeated for every major scientific organization in the world). More seriously, assuming that it wasn’t stacked a Royal Commission would be a great idea.

  37. Tim Macknay
    November 1st, 2013 at 16:57 | #37

    @Ikonoclast

    We are most definitely in overshoot. A crash is inevitable now.

    The disciplines of population dynamics and population ecology are not exact sciences, so I’m not convinced one can be as definitive as that (If one were to rely on the Wikipedia account of population ecology, which I don’t propose to do, skepticism of the discipline would certainly be warranted, since Wikipedia states that its ‘first law’ is Thomas Malthus’ law of exponential population growth, which was so obviously wrong that Malthus himself deleted it from the second edition of his essay on population).

    Applying ecological methodologies to human societies, while it certainly has value, needs to be done cautiously, as there seems to be a constant temptation to treat modern human consumption of resources as if it were identical to the consumption behaviours of non-human species. However, the vast majority of contemporary human consumption is not survival-related, so the fact that it is unsustainable does not necessarily imply that a reduction will lead to a population die-off.

    There is also the possibility, or likelihood, of population decline caused by reduction in birth rates, which would lead to an overall reduction in population without a die-off. At this point in time, a non-catastrophic global population decline driven by declines in birth, rather than increases in death, is a real possibility (some economic commentators believe that shrinking populations are catastrophic for economic growth, but that’s not the kind of catastrophe we’re talking about).

    Even a “die-off”, if it occurs slowly, need not be experienced as catastrophic or highly disruptive. The population of Russia has declined significantly (and continues to decline) due to a combination of a long-term decline in the birth rate, coupled with a more recent, modest increase in the death rate following the decline of Soviet-era social welfare standards. While one would certainly not have described the post-Soviet era as “good times” for Russians, it has certainly not been apocalyptic. Life goes on.

    What is inevitable is a crash in the populations of a great many non-human species, including some which are prized and widely utilised by humans (such as bluefin tuna, for example). The evidence of that crash is plentiful indeed.

  38. ZM
    November 1st, 2013 at 18:17 | #38

    If you think a Royal Commission would be great idea, I imagine you would get a significant enough number of signatures for a petition addressed to the Governor General (not the upper or lower house).
    Unless this has been updated The Governor General can call a Royal Commission:

    ROYAL COMMISSIONS ACT 1902 – SECT 1A

    Power to issue Royal Commission
    Without in any way prejudicing, limiting, or derogating from the power of the King, or of the Governor-General, to make or authorise any inquiry, or to issue any commission to make any inquiry, it is hereby enacted and declared that the Governor-General may, by Letters Patent in the name of the King, issue such commissions, directed to such person or persons, as he or she thinks fit, requiring or authorising him or her or them or any of them to make inquiry into and report upon any matter specified in the Letters Patent, and which relates to or is connected with the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth, or any public purpose or any power of the Commonwealth.

  39. ZM
    November 1st, 2013 at 19:02 | #39

    I think such a petition would have to be written as a petition of right – I think this is the only petition the Crown is legally obliged to hear. I am happy to look into the matter as best I can, but I could only gather signatures in my town – this would not be a very substantial number of signatures.

    According to Wikipedia
    “A petition of right was available:[4]
    To obtain restitution of real or personal property of the subject which has found its way into the hands of the Crown, or compensation if restitution could not be made; or
    To recover damages for breach of a contract made on behalf of the Crown, whether the breach was due to the acts or the omissions of servants of the Crown.”

    I think both these claims could be made – the first in terms of the property of future subjects (the crown I think extends in both directions in terms of its subjects and duties) – the second you could argue that the coronation was a contract and not fulfilling it properly breached that. So you would claim either restitution for future generations, or you would claim damages payable.

    Then you could call for a royal commission as well.

    Even if this failed, it could be important to people of the future in making a case against the government/crown for not acting to mitigate climate change. This might be similar to the role of the bark petition in assisting with native title claims.

    Again, according to Wiki “The law as to petitions of right applied to Ireland but not to Scotland, and a right to present such a petition was also thought to exist in colonies whose law was based on the common law of England” so that should include Australia.

  40. John H.
    November 1st, 2013 at 20:03 | #40

    @Tim Macknay

    The claims of Ioannidis need to be taken seriously. While I think he goes too far in some of his claims there are other voices out there which are also raising similar concerns. Dr. John Healy is a world renown expert in neuropsychopharmacology and has demonstrated that many of claims purportedly based on solid research are just plain wrong. There are now studies indicating that the very greater majority of people taking antidepressants derive no benefit; though it should be noted that for severe depression these drugs are life savers. The off label use of antipsychotics is little more than sedation and is potentially very dangerous, especially given their increasing use in children. There is some very worrying evidence that these drugs can induce cerebral atrophy. It is atrocious that these drugs are being increasingly prescribed to children and yet we have no idea of the long term consequences and nor have these drugs being trialled on children.

    If Catalyst should be required to “hand it back” then large numbers of GPs, psychiatrists and psychologists should be struck off because repeated studies have demonstrated they providing treatments of no value or worse.

    Bloggers like Neuroskeptic, the economist McCloskey, and in the 60’s the work of Jack Cohen, have indicated that biomedicine has a serious problem with statistical analysis. We need much more stringent standards. Just this week US based research found that up to 1/3 of all clinical trials are not published and there are numerous incidences of Big Pharma receiving huge fines for outright fraud and propaganda. So it is not surprising that so many people have turned away from the experts because all too often the experts have been found wanting.

    BTW, if you think the experts should always be trusted then read this:

    http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21588069-scientific-research-has-changed-world-now-it-needs-change-itself-how-science-goes-wrong

    I disagree that saturated fat is not a problem but the matter is not simple. From what I have read the problem is about big single intakes of saturated fats, especially in the absence of antioxidants, constitutes a blood vessel risk. Not because of cholesterol but because there is evidence to suggest that this can initiate a sustained inflammatory response in the blood vessels.

  41. rog
    November 2nd, 2013 at 05:28 | #41

    @John H.

    : “trust, but verify”.

    It’s a shame the Economist did not provide sources or references, to verify.

  42. Ikonoclast
    November 2nd, 2013 at 09:55 | #42

    @Tim Macknay

    By pampered Western standards life for most Russians is now very grim. You might call it catastrophic if your living standard dropped from your current one to the average Russian living standard. On the other hand, when has life not been grim for Russians excepting for their elites in each age?

    As Dmitry Orlov has pointed out, Russians in a sense were partially collapse-proofed because they were already essentially adapted to living in a quasi-collapsed country. We are not in that position. Our systems (physical and economic) are all designed to run on a superfluity of resources. Our psycho-social ethos is one of grandiose entitlement. How will all that stand up to resource collapse and a complete change in expectations? I am not sure but it won’t be smooth.

    I expect small elites in each country (even Western ones) to look after themselves and screw the majority down into abject poverty. The USA is well on the way on this path. Homeland Security is acquiring billions of rounds of ammo and reconditioned IED resistant APCs for domestic use. Gee, I wonder what these will be for? To put down civil insurrections from the heavily (small-)armed populace of course.

  43. John H.
    November 2nd, 2013 at 12:02 | #43

    @rog

    Rog,

    I did provide sources. The Economist should have done a better job but it is not really their field so I can excuse that. Dr. Ben Goldacre in Britain has also written extensively about the corruption of biomedical research. “Bad Pharma”.

    If you have to verify you are by default indicating you do not trust the source.

  44. may
    November 2nd, 2013 at 12:10 | #44

    ZM :“fn1. As I grow tired of pointing out to people who have a misunderstood high school lessons in logic, the alternative to rejecting unqualified “experts” out of hand is not to look at the evidence they present and “make up your own mind”. It’s to undertake the years of intensive study needed to master the subject, then assess the evidence and make up your own mind.”
    I am not sure with this if you take umbrage with people who claim authority of one kind or another or with the people who are left to try to discern the competing claims of those who claim authority.
    As someone who can claim no authority, I would like to defend the latter.
    Often people need to make up their minds about a number of things within timeframes in which they do not have the time to look at all the evidence presented by various sorts of people, let alone to undertake years of intensive study under various sorts of professors to come to their own educated conclusions about *everything they need to make their minds up about* which might not even be things they would choose to know about in any case – we must vote, we must make various choices.
    As you comment from a democratic perspective I can only think you support people making up their minds on things as best they can, but perhaps this is wrong – the combination of socialism and democratic confuses me somewhat I admit – what if one conflicts with another? If someone makes false claims that are decided to be against the social good by people holding authority, perhaps they could be outlawed from socialist perspective? Whereas from a democratic perspective if someone was to make false claims, I suppose it would simply be up to the majority of people as to whether it should be outlawed or allowed?

    here we have in a rather wordy but good description of a subject that will reduce me to ranting incoherance.

    “fair and balanced”,
    “teach the controversy”
    “you decide”

    the reduction of debate on areas of information that i need by

    “pundits” and “commentators” gives me the pip.

    getting information from people who have proven expertise in a given area is not easy.

    checking the facts is not easy.

    getting past revved up emotionalism is not easy.

    i’d better stop—i’m starting to rant.

    still,what would be nice is to see a bit of respect given to our common and garden variety pedant.

    i know they can be infuriating (any subject you want with a true blue pedant will within three sentences revert to their beloved subject)

    but they know what they are talking about and they do so because they are (shall we say obsessed?) with their subject and do not abuse it.

    especially for money.

  45. Jim Rose
    November 2nd, 2013 at 12:27 | #45

    Nat Hentoff wrote a nice book in 1992 ‘Free Speech for Me–But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other’.

    Hentoff indicts those from the right and the left who would suppress the rights of individuals to voice opposing viewpoints.

    He deals with traditional censors–religious fundamentalists and political right-wingers–but does not neglect the new ones, e.g., feminists who tried to prevent a pro-life women’s group from participating in Yale University’s Women’s Center.

    Hentoff discusses everything from efforts on college campuses to prevent non politically correct subjects from being discussed to censorship he faced while writing his columns. Hate-speech ordinances, speech codes on campus, flag-burning amendments to the Constitution, and feminist-Moral Majority coalitions to ban pornography.

    A group of librarians in New York suggested that the following label be put on particular books in school libraries, as needed: “WARNING: It has been determined that these materials are sex-stereotyped and may limit your sense of freedom and choice.

    He especially criticizes “civil libertarians” who use the First Amendment as protection of things they like and then ignore it when trying to ban what they hate (racist writing, sexual harassment, etc.).

    Rather than set up left-wing straw men to knock down, Hentoff details stories of how the left censors, while acknowledging that the Right censors. Since conservatives admit their intentions they are not as dangerous as the duplicitous people on the Left.

  46. may
    November 2nd, 2013 at 12:36 | #46

    Jim Rose :Nat Hentoff wrote a nice book in 1992 ‘Free Speech for Me–But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other’.
    Hentoff indicts those from the right and the left who would suppress the rights of individuals to voice opposing viewpoints.
    He deals with traditional censors–religious fundamentalists and political right-wingers–but does not neglect the new ones, e.g., feminists who tried to prevent a pro-life women’s group from participating in Yale University’s Women’s Center.
    Hentoff discusses everything from efforts on college campuses to prevent non politically correct subjects from being discussed to censorship he faced while writing his columns. Hate-speech ordinances, speech codes on campus, flag-burning amendments to the Constitution, and feminist-Moral Majority coalitions to ban pornography.
    A group of librarians in New York suggested that the following label be put on particular books in school libraries, as needed: “WARNING: It has been determined that these materials are sex-stereotyped and may limit your sense of freedom and choice.
    He especially criticizes “civil libertarians” who use the First Amendment as protection of things they like and then ignore it when trying to ban what they hate (racist writing, sexual harassment, etc.).
    Rather than set up left-wing straw men to knock down, Hentoff details stories of how the left censors, while acknowledging that the Right censors. Since conservatives admit their intentions they are not as dangerous as the duplicitous people on the Left.

    this is exactly what i’m talking about.

    what the hell has left or right or pro or con got to do with the ability to access information needed to make up my own mind?

  47. may
    November 2nd, 2013 at 12:53 | #47

    and just because i’m in a bloody bad mood.

    http//:img.wonkette.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/slavery-3.jpg

  48. Will
    November 2nd, 2013 at 13:04 | #48

    @Jim Rose

    See, this whole thing gets to the point of the issue. The truth is that so many people are grotesquely unqualified to comment on certain topics. Some people, instead of acknowledging the limits of their knowledge, instead see it as some kind of concerted attack to censor them or limit their freedom of speech when in reality all they do is to muddy the waters and prevent any kind of meaningful discussion by experts in the field. Science and knowledge are not democratic processes, no matter how much some people wish they were!

    I don’t know the damned thing about bridge building or biochemistry and I just simply have to accept that fact and concede to the scientific consensus in those areas. I do however have 2 bits of paper on the wall which qualify me to have some kind of input in discussions on economics and econometrics. But, as Prof Q will no doubt recognize, trying to get a layperson to drop preconceived economic notions and just accept that their beliefs are dangerously false is extremely disheartening and infuriating.

  49. ZM
    November 2nd, 2013 at 14:29 | #49

    @Jim Rose
    Even tho you’ve not, so far as I can see, addressed the questions as to whether you see yourself as someone who is a moral being, and therefore subject to moral laws (as opposed to an amoralist), and even though for some strange reason you are happy to claim the Star Trek is an accurate teleogical account of future human history (can you explain why you think this is so?) – even you must have an understanding that speech is also an act (I think folks may call it “the speech act”). Perhaps you would interject here to say – yes, that is indeed obvious,

    BUT no matter how coarse, no matter how villainous, no matter how deceitful – the speech act is an act that should never be subject to interference – let someone say what they will – if one tells another that he’s a cuckold why should the second use violence against the first?

    If one is inciting another to murder – hello, Lady Macbeth – why should anyone mind? This is the “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” argument.

    Now, of course it is not a very true sort of an argument – but nevertheless you may make it.

    However – here we come to whether you are a moral or amoral creature or not – there are other sorts of actions as well. Bodily (rather than mouthy) actions.

    Ought murder be outlawed? Ought rape? Or ought we stand back from making a moral claim about these actions at all?

    Now anthropogenic climate change falls into the latter category – it is a bodily thing – if it was merely a question of rhetoric (hey my friends, I have this excellent idea of altering the climate – shall we alter the climate or not alter the climate?) one could claim it was subject only to the laws regarding speech – however, as a bodily thing, it may be and ought to be subject to the laws governing the body.

    Now, to the point – do you truly believe there ought be no laws to govern subjects bodily actions?

  50. ZM
    November 2nd, 2013 at 14:30 | #50

    Sorry – that Star Trek is an accurate teleological account

  51. ZM
    November 2nd, 2013 at 14:42 | #51

    @Will
    In my shire it is very rare for engineers to organise impromtu bridge building efforts over waters they’d like to bridge.
    Actually, town planning issues seem to get the community pretty het up in my experience.

  52. John Quiggin
    November 2nd, 2013 at 15:29 | #52

    With reference to comments above, a striking feature of “debates” of this kind is the readiness of the anti-science side to claim they are being “censored” whenever anyone points out that they are either fools or liars. This is particularly amusing coming, as it regularly does, from major party politicians, commentators in national newspapers, wealthy business people and so on.

  53. Jim Rose
    November 2nd, 2013 at 15:37 | #53

    @Will you say that:

    See, this whole thing gets to the point of the issue. The truth is that so many people are grotesquely unqualified to comment on certain topics. Some people, instead of acknowledging the limits of their knowledge

    that idea would silence most of the Left and green voters on economic policy and on foreign policy too. very elitist and a strong argument for small government too because the number of tiopics on which the average voter is well-informed is few.

  54. punditjohn
    November 2nd, 2013 at 16:03 | #54

    I’m sorry Prof Quiggin to have made the mistake of comparing you or your expertise, albeit favourably, with “Clive Williams” instead of Clive Hamilton. The former is, I believe, someone who makes sense on intelligence matters whereas the latter makes sense but emotes and wildly exaggerates in almost every public utterance. But he does help pose a question put to me recently which was to discover the basis of the arguments of those who want Australia to do a lot about AGW, expensively, and not just mitigation or research, without there being the slightest chance that it will make a significant change to the sea levels round our shores or the temperatures we enjoy or endure in future. If they are one of the rare scientists who have done relevant work on the science the question should still be asked. But the interesting cases are people like Clive Hamilton and any number of this or that scientists with no authority at all on climate science who want big gestures made. Is it like being part of the Ummah, or perhaps like doing funny things with the Masons, or is it because they are embarrassed amongst their international peers if they are Australian and don’t belong to a country which not only holds the currently favoured views on the subject but does heroic self-sacrificing things about it too? An upper class Englishman can fart in Westminster Abbey and laugh it off but how mortifying it is for colonials from a once convict colony.

  55. punditjohn
    November 2nd, 2013 at 16:14 | #55

    @John Quiggin

    Ah yes, my noting the clumsy absence of a “not” in the third line of my last post gives me opportunity for more important things to put to you, precisely because of your area(s) of expertise. There has been much publicity recently for the view that the world’s GDP will only start going downhill because of warming from about 2080? Have you a view on that? And any relevant facts, links, references or arguments beyond the obvious quibbles about the choice of parameters perhaps making a difference of quite a few years, that only some will be winners etc.?

    And, on a related matter. What do you think is the appropriate discount rate for assessing the NPV of future scenarios where the time frame is several generations? The great Frank Ramsey chose one per cent in the late 20s from memory. Nicholas Stern chose 1 per cent. Since such choices can make a big difference, indeed normally do, what is your expert advice on how to deal with such questions?

  56. punditjohn
    November 2nd, 2013 at 16:15 | #56

    @punditjohn
    and @ John Quiggin. Stern chose zero per cent didn’t he? Or was that Ramsey?

  57. ZM
    November 2nd, 2013 at 16:38 | #57

    I have done a little proper research into petitions of right now. It does definitely apply in Australia. It is not really like a normal sort of petition though, it’s more like to sue – this is why the Crown is obligated to hear it. Because it is an obligation of the Crown’s it would be most proper to address it to Queen Elizabeth II rather than the Governor General. This is better I think because the Queen is more likely to hear direct her secretary to respond to your letter – and to tell the Governor General to read it – than the Governor General is.

    I think it would be best to plead for a Royal Commission, then say something along the lines of, if Your Majesty will not form a Royal Commission then we (hopefully there would be more than one signature) must make our Petition of Right. In Australia the High Court would hear a Petition of Right – then you would have to get expert testimony in – so a Petition of Right in being heard would be fairly equivalent to a Royal Commission anyhow, except there would be more than one judge (I think Royal Commissions just have one judge don’t they?)

  58. ZM
    November 2nd, 2013 at 16:39 | #58

    Sorry, hear and then direct

  59. November 3rd, 2013 at 19:16 | #59

    So I have now got round to watching some of the show. A claim is made that while statins reduce the incidence of heart disease, they *don’t* increase your life expectancy.

    That is, you die at about the same time, just of something else. Is this true? And if so, what is the “something else” that you die of?

  60. November 3rd, 2013 at 23:06 | #60

    OK, I shouldn’t believe everything I see on TV.

    Kokkinos and his team examined the records of over 10,000 veterans (9700 males and 343 females) with dyslipidaemia from Veteran Affairs hospitals in Palo Alto, California and Washington D.C.

    Between 1986 and 2011, all participants underwent a standard exercise tolerance test to measure their exercise capability. They measured the highest metabolic rate (MET) reached while exercising, and then categorized fitness levels as least, moderate, fit, or high. After that, the volunteers were separated into two groups within each fitness level, those treated with statins and those treated without statins.

    In total, 2,318 patients died. Mortality risk was 18.5 percent in those taking statins, and 27.7 percent in those not taking statins.

    The investigators found that rates of death were lowest in those participants who took statins and were also in shape. The higher the level of fitness, the less the risk of dying at the 10 year median follow-up period. The most physically fit participants had a remarkably lower risk of death (60-70 percent), regardless of their statin intake.

    Dyslypidaemia, as far as I could ascertain, is high cholesterol. So basically, the Catalyst assertion that statins don’t increase life expectancy appears to be bulldust. And Professor Q, with both statins and high fitness, appears to be doing exactly the right thing.

  61. November 3rd, 2013 at 23:07 | #61

    Here is the link if you want to read it yourself.

  62. November 3rd, 2013 at 23:20 | #62

    But then I looked at this article, which says that meta-analysis of data on the use of statins to prevent heart disease (in those who haven’t had a heart attack, I guess) shows no benefit to mortality from statins.

    I can’t reconcile these two situations. How can one study show such obviously positive results, and the other say that there is no benefit to mortality?

  63. Neil Hanrhahan
    November 3rd, 2013 at 23:46 | #63

    I think this needs a mathematician or statistician to sort out the logic that seems a bit dodgy in the program. Perhaps Professor Quiggin can help on this. If you give statins to a lot of fit healthy non-smokers who are not overweight and eat their greens after taking their 10,000 steps and Michale Mosley’s 20 second bursts as well maybe you are not going to detect the amount of extra days of life you have conferred on average because you might need a test population of 100,000 or so to get a significant figure. Could that be it?

    It would seem to follow that, if the cost which you don’t share with fellow taxpayers, after allowance for safety net etc., is not going to make much impact on your budget or even the kids’ inheritance – and you don’t get muscle pains or nasty reactions in your liver – you might as well take the statiins after you are 45 or so. Right?

  64. Donald Oats
    November 4th, 2013 at 05:52 | #64

    @John Brookes

    This is why we need meta-meta-analyses 🙂

    In terms of the specific issue of statins efficacy in reducing mortality (due to cardiovascular disease(s), etc), what is made fairly evident is that the first order effects of something like a persistent change in the exercise and/or dietary regimes of the study’s participants can be more significant in the long term than the effects of taking statins.

    Having undergone a major change in my level and intensity of exercise myself, I can well believe that the long term effect of regular challenging exercise exceeds that of taking statins. The scientific interest for me is in the question of whether the combined effects of taking statins and an ongoing physical exercise regime are synergistic, additive, or whether the exercise benefit simply swamps the effect (if any) of the statin use as well. Going from sloth to regular exercise and good diet is such a major change to the conditions a human body is subjected to (these days), one that obviously has multiple interacting effects upon the body’s functioning capacity; it is pretty difficult to see how a medication can compete with exercise and diet changes, statistically speaking. Is it better to take a statin, or to put that money towards a regular exercise class?

  65. John Quiggin
    November 4th, 2013 at 09:11 | #65

    My problem is that the Catalyst report was entirely unhelpful here. They presented a bunch of people pushing wildly different claims including that:

    (a) Cholesterol has nothing to do with heart disease ( certainly false)
    (b) Statins reduce cholesterol but not heart disease (not supported by the evidence)
    (c) Heart disease risk reduction offset by other risks (a defensible claim, but not, in my view supported by the balance of the evidence)
    (d) For low risk groups, costs of statins outweigh the benefits (probably true, and a good argument against putting statins in the water supply as has allegedly been suggested)
    (e) Reducing cholesterol through diet and exercise is the best way to go (uncontroversial, but not always helpful).

    These were presented in scattergun fashion, with lots of generic abuse of Big Pharma (much of which is justified in broad terms), but no actual evidence of any particular instance of misconduct. Also, as is routine on TV, they identify the speaker once with a silly establishing shot, then present them much later with no ID, so you can’t keep track of who is saying what.

    All in all, a substantial negative contribution to public information on the topic

  66. jon frankis
    November 4th, 2013 at 10:26 | #66

    @John Brookes
    The first half dozen paragraphs of your first mentioned study (the military veterans), all I read btw, are I think sufficient to answer most of your questions John. Especially this paragraph:
    blockquote>Surprisingly, the study revealed that even people with dyslipidaemia who do not take statins, but are physically fit, were about half as likely to expire from any cause during the median 10-year follow up, than those who were taking statins, but were not physically healthy.

  67. jon frankis
    November 4th, 2013 at 10:41 | #67

    @John Quiggin
    I’m sorry JQ, but in my opinion the “substantial negative contribution to public information on the topic” that you level at Demasi’s efforts is once again unfair and mistargeted. That opprobrium deservedly ought to be aimed at organisations such as the Heart Foundation and other players who can be categorised as under the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. “Under the influence of” is a euphemism for the more accurate “junior marketing arm of”.

    Yes, IMHO things really are that bad. It’s a big issue not adequately addressable in comments on a blog but what is wrong, exactly, with the broad scheme of following the money and exercising one’s learned understanding – not cynically but sceptically – of human nature?

  68. Mel
    November 4th, 2013 at 11:43 | #68

    Jon Frankis:

    It’s a big issue not adequately addressable in comments on a blog but what is wrong, exactly, with the broad scheme of following the money and exercising one’s learned understanding – not cynically but sceptically – of human nature?

    One unfortunate fact of human nature is that some sad folk will embrace and hold tight conspiracy theories on matters about which they are ignorant but feel they have some “learned understanding”.

    The simplistic “follow the money” argument is feeble because everything in a market economy leaves a money trail and someone always makes a profit.

    Climate science itself is a multi-billion dollar industry sustained by the AGW theory; does this invalidate the science?

    As we’ve seen over the years on this blog, a not insignificant number of leftists prefer booga booga over science. Thankfully this problem is much worse on the right side of the aisle.

  69. jon frankis
    November 4th, 2013 at 12:17 | #69

    @Mel

    Climate science itself is a multi-billion dollar industry sustained by the AGW theory

    No, it’s a science which is opposed by the far larger, in money and morals-corruptibility terms, fossil fuel industry.

    The “follow the money” argument is simple not simplistic and therefore not “feeble”.

    Otherwise sure we probably agree on something here, but you’re wrong if you think JQ is fair for criticising Catalyst instead of the legal drugs industry and various “Foundations” it supports.

  70. Bruce Dickson
    November 4th, 2013 at 13:46 | #70

    As someone with CVD (2 stents this year), on statins but a scientist who checks his cardiologists treatment against published material, I found the Catalyst program to be appalling. Norman Swan has a very good summary of the real issues on Radio National this morning (Monday 4/11). Available at http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/the-health-reports-norman-swan/5067234
    Can I add I was and am fit (60+ km/week on the bike) but an over-active liver has given me a high level of serum cholesterol for 30+ years despite a very low dietary cholesterol intake. Diet and exercise is sometimes not the answer. We all have very different chemistries and they are never simple but , as in my case, a good cardiologist can manage the problems. (Memo to young people – never treat the body as a test-tube – a lesson we were taught 40 yrs ago in Year 1 chemistry). I would also suggest that anyone interested should read the ATP 3 guidelines available from U.S. Department of Health & Human Services at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/cholesterol/index.htm. This document essentially puts detail onto many of the comments by Swan and certainly identifies who should be on statins, how it should be introduced, the necessary monitoring for myopathy.

  71. John Quiggin
    November 4th, 2013 at 14:19 | #71

    @Jon You haven’t responded substantively to the points I’ve made. Considered as a report on the science, it was, as I said, a mess, mixing a bunch of mutually contradictory claims from different sources, some credible and some not.

    On the “follow the money”, I don’t have a problem with the general point that the system of medical trials and journal publications has been corrupted by drug companies. But (unless I missed it) Catalyst didn’t offer evidence of anything of this kind specific to statins. So, why not a program pushing HIV/AIDS denialism on the same line – the drugs are immensely profitable, and you can find people to say that the theory is false, the drugs don’t work etc?

    And you you haven’t responded to my point that the pro-statin view of the establishment seems to have strengthened just when the most profitable statins were approaching, and passing, patent expiry.

  72. jon frankis
    November 4th, 2013 at 15:31 | #72

    @John Quiggin
    John, responding in order:

    It was a popular report on science, not a peer-reviewed study, and it took on an industry-beloved plank of supposed “best contemporary practice”. Of course that will draw all kinds of flak from credentialled members of the medical profession, and many of their patients. A talk at a conference on one drug or one case can go on for an hour and be less scientifically supportable than was Demasi’s effort over the same time but tackling a 30 year paradigm of the profession general.

    I didn’t notice mutual contradiction amongst the sceptics. Some had higher professional reputation and status than others, each discussed the statin/health question from their own point of view – did I miss a (noteworthy) contradiction among them? The significant claim made by all was, I think, that statins have been overpromoted and overprescribed and … the usual effects of a successful industry-driven astro-turfing/marketing campaign.

    Wasn’t the claim made that Lipitor is the biggest-selling drug in history? We agree there’s no need to argue over the corrupting effects of the enormous wealth of the pharma industry? Note: I think the industry spends more than twice as much on marketing as they do on research (someone might correct me).

    Is there good peer-reviewed research to support HIV denialism? If yes then let’s have a pop-sci program on it, if not then it doesn’t compare to what I recall as having been at least three credentialled medical scientists quoting scientific study results in their interviews with Demasi.

    On your final point: the corruption of science by pharma money is insidious not flagrant. Reminds me of the recently popular aphorism “Hard for a man to change his mind when his income depends on its present carefree state” (paraphrased). But is it actually true that opinion has been firming on statins? It may be so but then, by now, I’m beyond being surprised by the scale of establishment medical follies. Non sequitur, but recall the number of smoking doctors of yore, some actually promoting cigarette brands?

  73. John Quiggin
    November 4th, 2013 at 15:53 | #73

    @jon frankis

    The Heart Foundation lowered its target in 2012, after Lipitor and Zocor went off-patent

    http://www.cardiologyupdate.com.au/latest-news/lower-cholesterol-target-advised

    I think you owe them an apology

  74. jon frankis
    November 4th, 2013 at 16:43 | #74

    @John Quiggin

    I think you owe them an apology

    Hmmm … tell me please (because I try not to pay too much attention to it): is the Heart Foundation the one that either now or previously was putting ticks on some supermarket foods “Heart Approved” or something similar? Were companies paying for the Heart Foundation to certify them, and get the tick?

    If I’m mistaken then I’ll look further, if not then I’m sorry but no – no apology. If someone needs an explanation I guess I’ll provide it. However for now I’ll say that people should eat real foods, in sensible quantities, and get some exercise.

    I made a few points in my previous response, do you have any comments?

  75. John Quiggin
    November 4th, 2013 at 17:41 | #75

    “I didn’t notice mutual contradiction amongst the sceptics.” I pointed it out @15

    “Is there good peer-reviewed research to support HIV denialism? ” There is peer reviewed research, which formed the basis of TV programs shown at the Berlin Conference 1993. It’s not good research, but its comparable to what was presented in Part 1 of the Catalyst program. The platform given to obvious charlatans (see OP) undermines any faith in the subsequent presentation of evidence

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Duesberg
    http://www.orgonelab.org/hiv_aids.htm

    “Wasn’t the claim made that Lipitor is the biggest-selling drug in history?”

    Again, you seem unwilling to confront the fact that atorvastatin is in the public domain. Shouldn’t this at least have been mentioned?

    On the Heart Foundation, I agree that it’s dubious to require a license fee for their certification. But the certification is independent and there’s no evidence I’ve seen that it’s bogus. Your claims go a long way beyond that and you seem happy to ignore the fact that most of Demasi’s experts are at best conflicted, at worst obvious charlatans

  76. November 4th, 2013 at 17:56 | #76

    @jon frankis

    The problem for me is that we aren’t closer to the truth. And I still don’t understand how one study (at least) finds compelling evidence for the effectiveness of statins to reduce mortality, but others don’t. And I’m happy that exercise has a bigger effect than statins, but that doesn’t explain the anti-statin viewpoint.

    If they’d done a whole show that got to the bottom of just one issue, that would be worthwhile. But just putting a whole lot of competing claims into play…

  77. John Quiggin
    November 4th, 2013 at 19:17 | #77

    On the exercise/diet point, I think it’s reasonable to quote myself as anecdotal evidence. I tested high for cholesterol nearly 25 years ago. As well as taking Lipitor, I made some of the obvious diet changes, and tried to improve on exercise over time, to the point where i was doing two or three hours of vigorous exercise (karate training) a week, as well as being generally active. I went off Lipitor as a test, and my cholesterol immediately rose well above the threshold levels.

    A few years ago, I stepped up to the point of running marathons and Olympic-distance triathlons. That did the trick, and I went off medication. But is that really likely to work as a universal recommendation? The Noosa triathlon I just finished had about 3000 male participants, which is of the order of 0.1 per cent of the male population of Queensland. In my age cohort (55-59) there were 87 participants.

    Of course, even moderate exercise is good, perhaps better than statins without exercise. But having done it myself, I’d say doing enough exercise to lower cholesterol to safe levels is not going to be a feasible option for everyone.

  78. MikeH
    November 4th, 2013 at 19:54 | #78

    Dr Norman Swan gives Catalyst a well deserved whack.

    http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/abc-report-could-cause-death-says-abc-health-specialist-20131104-2wx3n.html

    “Appearing twice on ABC Radio National to attack the program, both at breakfast and in his own Health Report program, Dr Norman Swan said what made him “really angry” was the was the effect it might have on indigenous Australians, who are especially likely to suffer from high cholesterol.
    “If you were an Aboriginal person watching that program you would think: I don’t need to be on cholesterol lowering medication, I don’t need to worry about it,” he said.
    “Cholesterol reduction is one of the few things that you can do for Aboriginal people safely, through statins which will save their lives, even though they have not had a stroke, because they are at high absolute risk.”

  79. jon frankis
    November 4th, 2013 at 20:33 | #79

    @John Quiggin
    John in response to your points at #15: that various claims aren’t identical or even similar doesn’t make them consequently contradictory. I believe every sceptic in the program agreed on the crucial point at the heart of the argument, that for people without existing heart disease statins do not improve life or health expectancy. You appear to believe that in otherwise healthy people lower cholesterol levels are better; I think there’s no good, uncontradicted evidence for that. If it did exist the answer would be diet and exercise not a drug. My understanding is that the best science suggests that people eating a healthy diet and exercising ought to forget about their cholesterol levels. I’m sure the studies behind the specialist opnions informing the GPs many so-far well people are seeing for their statin scripts suggest differently; I think they’re probably bad studies, contradicted by better ones.

    Demasi’s people from Harvard Medical, UCSD and UCSF are conflicted in what way are you saying?

    To get a clear insight in medical science you need to integrate across most of the published literature on a subject, understanding the strengths, weaknesses and outright flaws of multiple papers that are using different methodologies, studying different patient cohorts of differing races, sexes, diets, ages, comordities, confounders etc etc. Some studies are good but inconclusive, others are wannabe definitive but, as it happens, wrong.

    Then – not publishing in the best scientific journals does not one a charlatan make! As I’ve said I found the claims made in the first episode at worst inoffensive and they – the significant claims that I noticed – were backed up by the bona fide scientists in the second. You’re not a charlatan merely because you’re criticising the medical establishment and not publishing in the peer-reviewed literature (which is the gold standard, not the lowest barrier to entry in a debate). If you’re contradicting peer-reviewed science from outside then you want to be good, clearly, but it’s not breaking any law of nature to do it.

    On atorvastatin I don’t agree with you on the importance of patent expiry and don’t recall from the program whether anyone in it did (or should have) either. But if you care then I think, anyway, the fact could work either way. For instance downward price pressure on off-patent Lipitor from market competition encourages both search for a patentable replacement but also keenness to in the interim capitalise on the brand and sell more. Persuading somebody to lower their cholesterol target recommendations would help there – Lipitor has brand recognition and reputation from which to profit.

    I don’t much care what the Heart Foundation is saying about cholesterol levels, or anything else, and neither should others with an interest in improving their health. Sorry! The truth in this case is too simple: eat sensibly, do some exercise, run from the quacks with their nostrums.

    Btw please no smugness from climate science denialists reading this. Once again: money can be seen to be corrupting medical science as it does climate delusionals and frauds on the industry-friendly side of that argument, not the (real) scientists.

    Let’s be pragmatic, finally – how often do you expect to see a one hour pop science program on the ineptitude of the medical establishment position on something or other get embraced warmly by said establishment with sincere bleats of “You’re right we’ll try to do better!”? Is that a plausible scenario? It wouldn’t be the “establishment” position did it not come with all the finery and trappings and impressive testimonials (drug company studies).

  80. Neil Hanrhahan
    November 4th, 2013 at 20:35 | #80

    @jon frankis

    You shouldn’t give comfort to the sceptics you oppose by indulging in such failures of logic. I mean that to say that
    “Climate science itself is a multi-billion dollar industry sustained by the AGW theory” is perfectly compatible with the core of your your counter assertion “No, it’s a science which is opposed by the far larger, in money and morals-corruptibility terms, fossil fuel industry.”

    Which brings me to actually interesting points and questions (at least a question interesting to me because I don’t know the answers).

    Little has been said here about Damasi’s point about adverse research results not being made available (without having to go to the very active lengths of the US Secret Service to cover up the unfortunate accident as alleged in the very plausible film explaining what really happened when JFK was shot). Surely that is the really important issue arising from the facts she discussed.

    And a question about all that money that is allegedly supporting “AGW does not threaten disaster” science. Anecdotally the boot is sometimes said to be on the other foot. How do you get funding (or employment or promotion), I have heard complained, if you aren’t following an IPCC compatible line? Obviously there is an enormous weight of money that has followed the initial governmental impetus to set up the IPCC and to make the Kyoto and later agreements but, apart from apparently well-founded allegations that the Koch brothers, who make a lot of money from coal (I assume unchecked) and pay a few economy class air fares to speak at Heatland Institute meetings on AGW, what is the real balance of funding and career advancement?

    A related question is what is to be made of the halo implicitly placed on and confined to “peer reviewed” articles. One doesn’t hear so much of it now in the climate business because it seems that the sceptics have got their own standard peer-review-referring journals up and running (I met a sceptical scientist who is on the board of one such: shades of Michael Mann of the Hockey Stick and his sturdy efforts to keep sceptics from being published). Isn’t “peer review” just an invitation for the young and naive, innocent of the ways and wiles of human nature, to sucker themselves? Given the appalling record of medical journals exposed by Ioannis why wouldn’t the follow up discussions by article and letter be a better alternative (including ones commissioned from those who would otherwise be peer reviewers – who would of course be under much greater pressure to perform competently, diligently and honestly if their views and reasons were published with their names attached!)? And if, as seems prima facie obvious, it would be best to publish more and publish quicker, relying on also presenting the reader with the opinions of peers in response, why doesn’t it happen? Presumably because – Prof Q as economist help me here please – the editors and their journals thrive financially and in prestige on scarcity.

    It would be easy to set up an Aunt Sally consisting of the alleged consequences of providing several times the space for publication of prolific and ambitious young researchers (prolific in their writing anyway) but it is surely not beyond the wit of the world of science – or even ltierature – to devise alternative means of quality control? Indeed anything which more or less guaranteed publication of replications of important research would surely be a huge leap forward.

  81. jon frankis
    November 4th, 2013 at 20:46 | #81

    @John Quiggin
    I believe talk of “safe” cholesterol levels in someone like yourself with no history of heart disease, who at the time was exercising quite a bit and let’s suppose eating a reasonable diet (not too much of anything, particularly sugar and processed foodstuffs, with some veges and fruit in the mix) is mistaken. I agree with the scientists and others in the Catalyst program who share that opinion, and the scientific studies that support it. When your cholesterol rose above what you thought were desirable levels – there isn’t good evidence to support concerns on that score even if your diet wasn’t as good as it could have been.

  82. John Quiggin
    November 4th, 2013 at 20:49 | #82

    The relevant Wikipedia article covers all the major controversies in a much more informative and balanced fashion

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statins

    So, it’s hard to sustain a claim that evidence is being suppressed, and very hard to see what contribution a program like this is making to public understanding of the issues

  83. MikeH
    November 4th, 2013 at 22:14 | #83

    An article from Justin Coleman, GP, Inala Indigenous Health Service, Senior Lecturer, Griffith University,University of Queensland, President, Australasian Medical Writers Association

    My summary of his article – first episode crap, second episode raises some important issues.

    http://theconversation.com/viewing-catalysts-cholesterol-programs-through-the-sceptometer-19817

  84. John Quiggin
    November 5th, 2013 at 07:29 | #84

    @MikeH

    Thanks for this. A pretty fair summary, I thought. For those who haven’t found it already, The Conversation is an excellent source of (mostly, though not always) well presented academic analysis of a wide range of topics.

  85. rog
    November 5th, 2013 at 08:36 | #85

    This is what Catalyst used for evidence, TheNNT group

  86. Mel
    November 5th, 2013 at 09:13 | #86

    Dr Norman Swan:

    “People will die as a result of the Catalyst program unless people understand at heart what the issues are,” Dr Norman Swan told an ABC radio audience.

    Appearing twice on ABC Radio National to attack the program, both at breakfast and in his own Health Report program, Dr Norman Swan said what made him “really angry” was the effect it might have on indigenous Australians, who are especially likely to suffer from high cholesterol.

    Whoever is responsible for airing this program should be axed.

  87. jon frankis
    November 5th, 2013 at 09:19 | #87

    Tnx for good links MikeH and rog. Mel you might like to distract yourself for 60 seconds by reading one of them. Norman Swan is a radio presenter, btw.

  88. rog
    November 5th, 2013 at 09:28 | #88

    The Heart Foundation has made available an enormous amount of research and analysis to back their position statements. Catalyst has ignored this evidence and based their program on the opinion of an anonymous blogger?

  89. rog
    November 5th, 2013 at 09:30 | #89

    @jon frankis I dont regard TheNNT link as a “good link”.

  90. jon frankis
    November 5th, 2013 at 09:46 | #90

    Right, excellent … removing the www. as well to skip the idiot moderation filter:

    @rog
    Never heard of NNT before you linked to their fair and reasonable single page comment rog. You may have some beef with their team makeup as well as your comment above, how would I know?
    thennt.com/about-thennt-team/

    That Lomborg character made available “an enormous amount of research” in the bibliography to that foolish book he wrote, rog. You consequently loved his “work” did you? Does his work still inform your opinions on climate science, given the “enormous amount of research” in his endnotes? Cool.

  91. rog
    November 5th, 2013 at 09:59 | #91

    @jon frankis That’s a fair comparison, Lomborg with NNT.

  92. Mel
    November 5th, 2013 at 11:21 | #92

    Jon Frankis:

    Norman Swan is a radio presenter, btw.

    Actually Dr Norman Swan has a very impressive resume:

    One of the first medically qualified journalists in Australia, Dr Swan was born in Scotland, graduated in medicine from the University of Aberdeen and later obtained his postgraduate qualifications in Paediatrics.

    A famous example of Dr Swan’s work is his much publicised and controversial investigative program on scientific fraud and the well-known gynaecologist Dr William McBride. The program exposed fraudulent research, sending shock waves throughout the medical world and led to Dr William McBride being de-registered. It earned Dr Swan the 1988 Australian Writers’ Guild Award for best documentary and a Gold Walkley.

    In 2004 he was awarded the Medal of the Australian Academy of Science, an honour that had only been given three times and the Royal College of Physicians of Glasgow made him a Fellow. In 2006 he was given a Doctorate of Medicine Hon Causa by the University of Sydney during its medical school’s 150th anniversary.

    Norman Swan is known outside Australia. He has been the Australian correspondent for the Journal of the American Medical Association and the British Medical Journal and consulted for the World Health Organisation in Geneva on global priorities in health research, putting evidence into health policy and clinical trial registration.

    By way of contrast, how about you tell us about your own qualifications? Year 12 at Pimble Community College, perhaps?

    You might also like to tell us if you think HIV/AIDS and vaccines are also Big Pharma hoaxes. Plenty of websites quote credentialled scientists who claim as such. What about fluoride? Some nutjobs argue fluoridated water rots your teeth and therefore makes the corrupt dental industry billions.

  93. November 5th, 2013 at 11:30 | #93

    @jon frankis
    Norman Swan may be a radio presenter, but he’s also a physician who has great skill at simplifying complex medical stuff to the point where a well informed and educated layman can understand it.

  94. November 5th, 2013 at 14:22 | #94

    That’s an awful lot of money (from ABC):

    Global healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has agreed to pay more than $US2.2 billion to settle allegations of fraudulently marketing drugs and paying kickbacks to promote their sales.

  95. rog
    November 5th, 2013 at 14:54 | #95

    @jon frankis Instead of entering into complex debates on medical science, an area in which I freely admit to having no skill, I was wondering if you could answer this simple question; is a TV presenter more or less qualified to give medical advice than a radio presenter?

  96. jon frankis
    November 5th, 2013 at 15:34 | #96

    @rog
    Yes nice one rog. I think Norman Swan, on the few occasions I’ve heard him, has been doing good work lately. On this issue you might suppose his prior personal opinion to likely be worth as much as Demasi’s. OTOH there have been too many personal opinions aired on this issue already, his one of the louder, more gullible and presumptuous ones IMHO. But really his and Demasi’s personal opinions are peripheral, aren’t they? For each of theirs there’d be tens of equivalents, and more betters, in this country alone.

  97. Mel
    November 6th, 2013 at 08:15 | #97

    I also thank MikeH for the link to the article at The Conversation. Much more balanced and informative altho I strongly disagree with the conclusion that the program should have been put to air.

    Maryanne Demasi should be sacked immediately.

  98. Fran Barlow
    November 6th, 2013 at 08:28 | #98

    Can I also say that although I often have profound reservations about the intellectual integrity of programs broadcast on ABC, The Health Report has, in my experience always been of the highest quality.

    Based on my familiarity with The Health Report Norman Swan seems to me to be someone of impeccable integrity, intellectual acumen and professionalism and a first rate broadcaster as well.

  99. jon frankis
    November 6th, 2013 at 11:35 | #99

    @Fran Barlow
    That’s well said I think. Asked before his injection of himself into Demasi’s story I’d have put it similarly (on slight acquaintance only, with my opinion having improved over time); the unhappier tone from me was at any rate purely context-dependent.

  100. Neil Hanrhahan
    November 6th, 2013 at 21:58 | #100

    Well worth Prof Q’s raising the issues but should we be too fussed about the ABC’s performance? After all it is the ABC and a high proportion of those of its audience who remember what they saw or heard are probably capable of working their way through to the simple conclusion that it looks like a very good idea to take your statins if you have anything but a low LDL level (and relatively high HDL level) and aren’t at low risk because of healthy blood pressure readings, no insulin or sugar problems, aged ancestors, trim waist line, healthy diet, no smoking and plenty of exercise. Bad luck if side effects afflict you but then you can easily conclude that you had better work harder on the other risk factors which cost more effort than taking statins.

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