05/21/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Statin Scams

A couple of interesting and unrelated articles in the popular press this week got me to thinking: What if - instead of an innocent kid- it had been the emperor from the kingdom next door shouting "that dude's got no clothes on"?

I'm guessing no one would have listened.

A thought-provoking piece by Hanna Rosin on breastfeeding published in the April 2009 Atlantic Monthly sparked my little reverie. Rosin's not a doctor (i.e. not a member of the emperor club), nor a PhD, just an ultra-smart journalist who combed through the supposedly irrefutable evidence in favor of breast feeding and found it... well, let's just say "wanting". Her piece was all the more credible because she didn't "debunk" or "dismiss" the evidence in favor of breastfeeding but rather thoughtfully reexamined much of what "everyone knows is true" and found it to be based on very ambiguous research which was far less definitive than everyone imagines.

I then happened upon Sharon Begley's piece in Newsweek this week titled "The Myth of Early Detection". Begley, one of the best science reporters in the country, shot holes in another "accepted" pearl of wisdom: that early detection of cancers always saves lives.

All of which got me wondering.

Maybe it's time for one of these really smart investigative reporter types -- outsiders not from the hallowed halls of academia -- to take on the cholesterol establishment.

The myth that high cholesterol causes heart disease and that lowering cholesterol prevents it is even more entrenched than the two sacred cows taken on by Rosin and Begley. Sure there's a handful of scientists like Uffe Ravnskov, MD, PhD and The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics that's been taking this one on for years. These guys have enough intellectual bandwidth that if you assembled them all in one place and Paul Krugman accidentally wandered in, there's actually a chance he might not be the smartest guy in the room.

But sad to say they're boring as hell, and no one's listening. For all the American public knows, these folks are about as credible as Holocaust Deniers. Besides, they're doctors -- and people don't pay attention to emperors who throw stones at other emperors. It starts to look like one big snooze of a squabble on CSPAN and everybody just tunes out.

So maybe it takes an outsider -- albeit a really smart one -- to take a close look at this. We need the equivalent of a full-throated high IQ kid with really big eyes and the soul of a whistle-blower, one with no connection to the drug or medical establishment and no compunction about saying "Dude, where's the beef?" to take this one on.

Because when the truth about the house of cards that is the cholesterol-lowering establishment really gets out, it'll make credit default swaps look like a 1st grade prank.

Sharon Begley, are you listening?