German physician-journalist Christoph Specht wrote to me about what he called an “unbelievably un-balanced book-selling segment on CNN.”
It was still another network TV news promotion of Dr. David Agus’ book, “The End of Illness.”
In the segment (which is no longer available online, but here’s the transcript), Agus urges listeners to consider daily statin and aspirin use. He says they can get a 90-day supply of a statin like Lipitor for $10 – and that this can “decrease your incidence of cancer by 40 percent.” He also says that daily aspirin can decrease your risk of death from cancer and heart disease.
Dr. Specht wrote to me:
“Understanding that Dr. David Agus focused on taking “Lipitor” and aspirin” as THE solution for preventing illnesses is one thing. Another is why Dr. Gupta limited his reply to just asking him whether this isn’t “pill-pushing”. There is so much more to say about such an unbalanced, one-sided claim as “Lipitor cuts the risk of getting cancer by 40%”. To say the least, why didn’t he mention that Lipitor and – of course – aspirin have considerable side effects that must be taken into account when discussing prevention for the entire population? As well as they might work in individuals (in terms of benefit/risk-ratio), this by no means can be extrapolated to the largest group we can think of – the population. Sorry Sanjay, but in this instance you could have done better. I know you can.”
I’ve heard from numerous observers who have concerns about the widespread and unquestioning promotion of Agus’ book and statements.
Yesterday I heard from some Canadian observers after his appearance on CBC radio.
Even Jon Stewart had Agus on The Daily Show and, while I almost always applaud Stewart’s toughness as an interviewer, he threw softball questions at Agus while affording him several minutes of free book promotion. (Maybe Stewart should leave health care topics to Stephen Colbert, whose health care-related parodies are far more insightful and incisive.)
If you missed it, please see our post from three weeks ago – A critical analysis of ABC & Bill Weir’s “lifesaving test” story – about that network’s week-long promotion of the book, one part of which was particularly troublesome.