Australian Study Emphasizes Importance of Balanced Healthcare Reporting

A study published in the Medical Journal of Australia found that a TV program questioning the link between statin use and cholesterol reduction resulted in more than 60,000 Australians reducing or discontinuing the medication.

A science program, Catalyst, aired on Australian TV raised questions on the cholesterol-lowering effect of statins in October 2013, claiming that the benefits of this class of cholesterol-lowering agents had been exaggerated.

Researchers at the University of Sydney subsequently analyzed medical records from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, a program by the Australian Government that provides subsidized prescription drugs to residents. The results were quite surprising. Of the 191,000 records viewed, 14,000 fewer people were found to have dispensed statins per week immediately following the airing of the program, the researchers reveal in their study published in the Medical Journal of Australia. Over an 8-month follow-up period, a total of 60,897 fewer people dispensed statins than expected.

The authors of the study and other experts in Australia warn about the widespread impact of such programs, especially since a number of patients who stopped taking their medication were at high-risk for cardiovascular complications. Internal review by the program's broadcasting channel found a breach of impartiality standards and pulled the show from air, but the impact lasted, as revealed by the current study.

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