What Statins, Trans Fats, and GMOs Tell Us About Scientific Controversies

Climate denial has rightly led many to unilaterally embrace science as the last bastion of rational thought in an increasingly contentious world. But the question is: Whose science?
It's the role of science to provide the criteria for determining how our society regulates, monitors, and controls both health-promoting substances and contributors to health and environmental harm. Each such decision can have far-reaching consequences -- and long-term costs. And that's why when controversies erupt, all debate participants lay claim to the scientific truth.
When in Scientific American blog Kevin Bonham (a sixth-year Harvard graduate student) writes that he takes "the position that the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Association, the European Commission, and the Royal Society take," merely citing these august organizations sounds convincing to the average person.
Yet despite claims of consensus, scientific findings are rarely absolute because it's the nature of science to evolve. Research occurs within a human, social, and economic context. Given the business drivers influencing both medical and other forms of scientific research, most science is nowhere near as definitive as climatology. As a result, the certainty we seek from science will sometimes -- if we are honest -- evade us. And even major scientific organizations (like those Bonham cites) get it wrong, for reasons I'll highlight in this blog post. Five recent happenings in ongoing scientific debate reveal that informed people cannot afford merely to take all scientific "evidence" at face value.
Statins Redux
In a recent op-ed in The New York Times, Harvard's John D. Abramson, M.D., author ofOverdosed: The Broken Promise of American Medicine, and cardiologist Rita F. Redberg, M.D., critique newly released medical guidelines that advise statin prescriptions for an additional and sizeable new segment of the population -- increasing the pool of recommended users by as much as 70 percent. According to Abramson, the guideline change, issued by two respected medical authorities, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, "may sound like good news for patients, and it would be -- if statins actually offered meaningful protection from our No. 1 killer, heart disease; if they helped people live longer or better; and if they had minimal adverse side effects. However, none of these are the case."
Abramson goes on to enumerate the numerous problems with these most widely prescribed and profitable pharmaceuticals. He covers the precise concerns I detailed in a September 2013 article published on Alternet.
So why did major medical organizations expand the guidelines to encompass millions more Americans? John Abramson comments:
Read the full report here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

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