Life Extension Magazine November 2009
As We See It
Pfizer Abandons Heart Drug Development
By William Faloon
In a startling announcement, the largest drug company in the world says it will no longer develop medicine to prevent or treat atherosclerotic heart disease.1
Pfizer is the maker of Lipitor® and Norvasc®, two of the most profitable cardiovascular drugs of all time. Total cumulative sales of Lipitor® alone top $120 billion. Despite spending tens of billions of dollars in research and acquisitions, Pfizer is throwing in the towel. Pfizer’s inability to combat the leading cause of death in the modern world is an indictment of the pharmaceutical industry’s failure to use their outrageous profits to defeat age-related disease.
Why is Pfizer Dropping Out?
In their public statement, Pfizer says it wants to focus new drug research on more profitable areas such as oncology. Sadly, cancer patients are forced to pay tens of thousands of dollars for oncology drugs that may prolong survival by only a few months.
We at Life Extension® believe that Pfizer’s capitulation is based on the abundance of nutritional products that are vastly superior in preventing and reversing heart disease than anything the pharmaceutical industry is capable of developing over the next 5 to 10 years. Pfizer is also keenly aware that cardiac patients today often have access to very low-cost generic medications to augment (if needed) the effects of natural approaches.
Examples of Superiority of Natural Products
Five million Americans suffer from congestive heart failure.2 Certain prescription drugs can temporarily improve cardiac output, but nothing has demonstrated better results than the ubiquinol form of coenzyme Q10. In congestive heart failure patients whose ejection fraction (a measure of how much blood the heart can pump) had plummeted to near-death levels despite aggressive drug therapy, ubiquinol increased heart muscle function by 88%.3
Instead of the side effects associated with drugs, ubiquinol possesses side benefits such as impeding LDL oxidation, which is a major cause of artherosclerosis.4,5 Ubiquinol also protects neurons (brain cells) against degenerative changes and stroke.6-12
Statin drugs (like Lipitor®) are used to lower artery-damaging LDL. A study compared one group of patients receiving statin and other drugs to a group who received the same drugs plus pomegranate juice. In the drugs-only group, a measurement of systemic atherosclerosis (carotid intima-media thickness) increased by 9% in a year, whereas the group receiving the drugs plus pomegranate showed a 35% reversal in carotid intima-media thickness.13 Only high doses of potent statin drugs have demonstrated even remotely comparable anti-atherosclerotic effects.14
One way that pomegranate protects cardiovascular health is by augmenting nitric oxide, which supports the functioning of endothelial cells that line the arterial walls.15 Nitric oxide signals vascular smooth muscle to relax, thereby increasing blood flow through arteries and veins. In the aforementioned study, pomegranate also protected against atherosclerosis by reducing LDL’s basal oxidative status by an astounding 90% and increasing beneficial paraoxonase-1 by 83%.13
Pharmaceutical companies would pay a lot for a patented compound that performs as well as pomegranate. If such a compound was developed, you would see national TV ads promoting it as the “drug” every American should take to protect against heart attack. Fortunately, pomegranate is a low-cost dietary supplement. You won’t see it advertised by the mass media, but then again, you don’t have to pay inflated prescription drug prices for it.
Fish Oil Superior to Statin Drugs
One study compared statin drugs side-by-side with fish oil in patients with heart failure. After a median of 3 years of follow-up, fish oil showed more benefit than statin therapy.16,17 Fish oil does not lower LDL, but it functions by numerous other mechanisms to protect against heart attack. The heart attack prevention data on omega-3 fatty acids (like fish oil) is far more robust and consistent than what has been found in statin drug clinical trials.
Unlike side-effect-prone statin drugs, fish oil seems to help protect against virtually every age-related degenerative disease.16,18-21 Those with LDL levels above 100 mg/dL of blood who cannot lower it with dietary changes or supplements should consider a low-dose statin drug and fish oil.
So with an arsenal of ubiquinol, fish oil, and pomegranate available to Americans at affordable prices (along with low-cost generic drugs if needed), is it any wonder that Pfizer, a company that has earned unprecedented amounts of money selling cardiac drugs, is surrendering to scientific reality and free market forces?
Are Cardiac Drugs Necessary to Protect against Atherosclerosis?
If a person wants to postpone or avoid coronary artery disease, they can do so by adhering to a strict calorie-restricted diet.25 Few people, however, are able to chronically under-eat, or to steer clear of artery-clogging foods.
When it comes to chronic problems like hypertension, there are drugs that effectively lower blood pressure without excessive side effects.26,27 We at Life Extension® strongly recommend that most people take whatever steps are needed to maintain blood pressure at optimal level (under 115/75 mmHg). This can be accomplished by dietary changes, dietary supplements, and/or medications.
When a blood test reveals LDL levels over 100 mg/dL, steps should be initiated to reduce it. Again, this can be accomplished by diet modification, dietary supplements and/or low-dose statin drugs. Certain nutrients (like niacin) have been shown to not only reduce LDL and LDL oxidation, but also boost beneficial HDL28-31—(something that statin drugs do not do very well).
Pfizer spent over one billion dollars buying and then attempting to develop a synthetic drug to increase HDL. When this drug (torcetrapib) was clinically tested, it killed more people than the placebo.32 Even if it had worked properly, torcetrapib would have cost a lot of money. Yet low-cost nutrients already exist to safely increase HDL, along with other blood factors (such as paraoxonase-1) that confer considerable protection against atherosclerosis.13,29,33-42
Did Pfizer See the Handwriting on the Wall?
There are at least 17 independent factors associated with the development of cardiovascular disease. The chart on page 12 shows why it requires much more than one approach to protect against artery disease.
As more cardiologists recognize that it takes more than a single (statin) drug to keep blood flowing through aging arteries, Pfizer may have come to the realization that they were unlikely to discover a single cardiac drug they could sell for a lot of money. Low-cost dietary supplements have proven efficacy that more consumers are embracing.
Cardiologists are also seeing more data about the critical importance of maintaining reverse cholesterol transport mechanisms in aging humans. Optimal reverse cholesterol transport occurs when cholesterol is efficiently removed from the arterial lining by HDL and transported to the liver for disposal, a process highly dependent on youthful levels of free testosterone.
As more aging men supplement with natural testosterone, they are enhancing the removal of cholesterol from their arteries (via reverse cholesterol transport), thus reducing their need for expensive synthetic drugs.43
David Defeats Goliath
Egregious incompetence, apathy, and corruption run rampant in the medical establishment. The fact that the largest and most profitable maker of heart drugs has stopped its research into developing new anti-atherosclerotic medications means that the long-held theory that high drug prices lead to improved medicines is an utter fallacy.
Functioning in a free market environment, natural products to protect arterial health are breaking the backs of the pharmaceutical industry, which has enjoyed outrageous protection from the FDA, the courts, and the US Congress.
Invest in Your Own Longevity
Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of death and disability in the Western world,45 yet one can readily identify correctable risk factors by having the proper blood tests done once a year.
As a Life Extension® member, you can request your own blood tests and use the results to follow a science-based program to guard against heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Life Extension®’s most popular offerings include the Male or Female Blood Test Panels. The medical establishment charges around $1,000 for these comprehensive tests, but as a Life Extension® member, you can obtain the same tests for only $269.
To review the different longevity factors included in the Male or Female Blood Test Panels, at the bottom.
When you place your blood test order, we send you a requisition form along with a listing of blood drawing stations in your area.
You can normally walk in during regular business hours for a convenient blood draw.
To place your order for the comprehensive Male and/or Female Blood Test Panel, call 1-800-208-3444 or log on to www.lef.org/blood
For longer life,
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