“‘Good’ cholesterol that scientists have thought helped unclog arteries had no effect on heart disease in a study, casting doubt on a theory drugmakers have spent more than $1 billion pursuing,” says an article on Bloomberg.com (see “Why Pfizer Flopped: Good Cholesterol, not so good, says study“).

Add this to results from the Vytorin/Zetia study that failed to prove that lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol does not seem to lessen buildup of plaque on arteries and you seem to have a “perfect storm” that may eventually sink the whole anti-cholesterol drug market!

Maybe I am not a good focus group of one, but in response to all this bad news about the failings of statins and other cholesterol-lowering drugs, I have done the following:

  1. Stopped taking my cholesterol drugs (Pravachol and Zetia) and focused instead on OTC products like Omega-III fish oil, niacin, and red yeast rice (which I also recently stopped because I suspect it gave me “geographic tongue!”), and
  2. I’ve had discussions with friends and relatives who are obsessed with their cholesterol numbers — are they focusing on numbers rather than true cardiovascular health?

If millions of other people like me out there are undergoing the same kind of soul searching questioning of conventional pharma wisdom — yes, I know, an obvious oxymoron — then there is trouble ahead for many pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer who are investing a lot into getting those cholesterol numbers down, but no so much on improving real outcomes.

At the least, it seems obvious to me that anti-cholesterol drug marketers can no longer focus exclusively on cholesterol numbers as Pfizer once did in those classic Lipitor commercials showing a skier with LDL (“bad cholesterol”) numbers on his back!

Crestor marketers have already taken a different approach (see, for example, “Crestor Print Ad Touts Plaque Buildup Advantage“), which they may have been more motivated to do in order to capitalize on Vytorin’s misfortunes than to actually educate consumers (see “Exciting News: FDA approves new use for CRESTOR“). I’m still waiting, however, for that 150-second Vytorin commercial (see “Make Way for the 150-Second Vytorin TV Ad“).

BTW, when I stopped taking my Rx medications, my cholesterol level has shot up, which prompted me to go back on pravastatin, the generic form of Pravachol. It seems that even I cannot ignore the power of numbers, albeit numbers that may have no relationship to outcomes!

P.S. Something else that my experience may presage: a trend to a more rapid switch to generics, which was already happening as a result of the Vytorin flap. It’s a good compromise: If I am uncertain about the benefit of a drug, but I can’t ignore numbers, then why pay more than I should to lower those numbers? I’ll take the generic, thank you!