In February 2o00 I had two heart attacks one week apart. The first one did about 10% damage and the second one was caught before it did any more, as I was in still in ICU when it happened. The problem was fixed with angioplasty, including stents, and drugs. I changed my eating habits and, after advice from holistic doctors and my own research, I began to take several vitamins, including several antioxidants now targeted by the Cochrane Collaboration and others, for doing nothing or, worse, increasing mortality:
We found no evidence to support antioxidant supplements for primary or secondary prevention. Beta-carotene and vitamin E seem to increase mortality, and so may higher doses of vitamin A. Antioxidant supplements need to be considered as medicinal products and should undergo sufficient evaluation before marketing.
These attacks on the vitamin industry have been criticized in a post by the Dr. Rath Health Foundation in an article entitled, a little “passionately,” perhaps: Latest Attempt to Discredit Vitamin Therapies: Is it Criminal?.
Rath says that one of the study’s main authors, Christian Gluud, has conflict of interest due to his strong connections to Biologue, a network closely tied to the Danish Pharma Consortium. Dr. Rath also points out that Denmark has seriously restricted the allowable levels of vitamin supplements and that that country is particularly opposed to unregulated vitamins. He believes that this is a major reason why the metastudy was conducted there.
I have heard for quite some time that Big Pharma would like to see the vitamin industry regulated out of existence – so that Big Pharma could get its mitts on the profits that would come if they became the only producers with pockets big enough to patent and, of course, raise the price of their new “more reliable” vitamins. Canada is one of the countries looking at regulating vitamins. In fact, the Canadian Institute of Health Research gave Cochrane 9.6 million dollars in May 2010. I smell a rat here.
I fear that this is yet one more case of all-powerful corporations influencing governments to enact legislation to further corporate interests to the detriment of Canadians.
A footnote of caution:
From this Wikipedia article on Cochrane the following criticism section points out that Cochrane’s metastudies rarely report conflict of interest to do with drug industry ties to the authors of the reports it includes in the metastudies:
A 2011 study done to disclose possible conflicts of interests in underlying research studies used for medical meta-analyses reviewed 29 meta-analyses and found that conflicts of interests in the studies underlying the meta-analyses were rarely disclosed. The 29 meta-analyses included 11 from general medicine journals; 15 from specialty medicine journals, and 3 from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. The 29 meta-analyses reviewed an aggregate of 509 randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Of these, 318 RCTs reported funding sources with 219 (69%) industry funded. 132 of the 509 RCTs reported author conflict of interest [COI] disclosures, with 91 studies (69%) disclosing industry financial ties with one or more authors. The information was, however, seldom reflected in the meta-analyses. Only two (7%) reported RCT funding sources and none reported RCT author-industry ties. The authors concluded “without acknowledgement of COI due to industry funding or author industry financial ties from RCTs included in meta-analyses, readers’ understanding and appraisal of the evidence from the meta-analysis may be compromised.” Noting that most assessment tools for meta-analysis do not include a domain for study funding source the authors state: “Currently, The Cochrane Collaboration’s Risk of Bias tool includes an optional ‘other sources of bias’ domain, which meta-analysts could use to include information on COIs. We recommend that The Cochrane Collaboration consider formalizing the requirement to assess potential bias from COIs.”
A Globe and Mail article on their webfeed to me precipitated this rant. Below is a response I tried unsuccessfully to email to them:
The vitamin pills article was simply staying on the alarmist Cochrane Collaboration message. The March 2012 is just a rehash of their almost annual antioxidant trashing report. This Cochrane study was based in vitamin-hostile Denmark. One co-author, Christian Gluud, has unrevealed connections to Big Pharma. This piece appears to have the agenda of discrediting inexpensive, “lethal” unregulated vitamins and replacing them with expensive, “beneficial,” Big Pharma vitamins.Which of your advertisers put you up to this cheap shot?Here’s a little more information I dug up, just in case you care: a link to my blog on the subject.Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but when someone else’s opinion has the surreptitious purpose of undermining my access to vitamins, it gets my B.P. up – not a good thing for a guy with a heart condition.Bob Turcotte