NEED FOR SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE HEARINGS
I write to address an important issue involving
not only the health of millions of Americans, but also the unnecessary and
increasing expenditure of billions of dollars by the U.S. Government,
insurers/health and welfare funds, employers, and individuals and to request
action on the part of the Senate Finance Committee.
Without regard to the actual benefit (or lack
thereof) and side effects they cause, cholesterol lowering prescription
drugs, also known as statins, have become hugely popular and the best
selling drug for pharmaceutical companies. Statin brand names include
Lipitor (manufactured by Pfizer), Zocor (Merck), Crestor (Astra Zeneca),
Mevacor (Merck), Pravachol (Bristol Myers Squibb), and Lescol (Novartis).
Lipitor is expected to make Pfizer $13 billion in revenues in 2006 alone.
Medicare and Medicaid pay for more than half of the statins sold.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the
pharmaceutical industry has been funding and manipulating drug studies and
trials for the purpose of generating favorable results. This is no exception
in the case of statins. Not only does the industry manipulate studies and
trials, but they also manipulate reports made to the public suppressing
vital information that is not to their liking and publishing only favorable
findings. Drug companies also pay outside marketing and sales firms,
physicians and other consultants to promote statins to the unsuspecting
public. We now are learning that statins cause dangerous and permanent side
effects including memory loss, amnesia, neuropathy and depression, among
others. None of these side effects are included in the statin manufacturers’
In addition, many statin manufacturers illegally
promote statins to doctors, patients, Medicare and Medicaid, and third party
payors through off-label marketing. Pfizer’s off-label marketing scheme for
Lipitor, for example, involves the misrepresentation of treatment guidelines
so that a much larger population than necessary thinks the drug is necessary
for them to lower their cholesterol. The result of the off-label marketing
is that the U.S. Government and others pay substantially
more money for more people to receive the drug and in larger doses. Drug
manufacturers understand the importance of marketing drugs. Indeed, drug
companies spend about 2.5 times as much on marketing than research and
The effect of statins on the federal government
is huge. Aside from the fact that the majority of the money spent on statins
is paid by the U.S. Government, a significant number of persons taking
statins suffer from side effects that result in additional medicines being
paid for by the U.S. Government such as pain killers and anti-depressants.
In addition, many statin users have to stop working due to their side
effects and are placed on disability – an additional cost to the U.S.
Government, insurers and employers.
I, consequently, urge the Senate Finance
Committee to hold hearings to thoroughly explore the testing, marketing, use
and side effects of the cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Date: ____________, 2007