The science is a little complex, but the reporter should still get the bottom line right.
A story by Time.com entitled Study: Putting More People on Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Could Save Money was published Sept. 27, 2010. It referenced Stanford researchers who published a study on the cost-effectiveness of statins to treat high cholesterol in the medical journal Circulation.
The study compared different screening approaches for people without known coronary artery disease but at moderate risk for a heart attack, defined as 10% to 15% over 10 years. One approach was to screen them with a C-reactive protein (CRP) test; the other was to just treat them with statins.
The researchers calculated that treating everyone with statins was more cost-effective than the screening with CRP approach. That’s all. They didn’t compare either approach to a no-screening approach.
In spite of years of cost-effectiveness studies that clearly show testing for and treating high cholesterol adds healthcare costs, even for high-risk patients, the reporter concluded her piece with, “. . . lowering current thresholds for statin eligibility by shrinking down the ‘normal’ range of cholesterol, blood pressure and body mass, which could save both lives and health-care dollars.”
We all wish statins save healthcare costs, but they don’t. This story is another example of how the media continues to expose the American people to voodoo medical economics, which only contributes to exorbitant healthcare costs and delays the creation of a more equitable and efficient healthcare system.
All you health reporters out there. Please get your facts straight.