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The crux of the matter: Did the ABC’s Catalyst program change statin use in Australia?

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On 24 and 31 October 2013, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) aired a two-part special edition of the science journalism series, Catalyst, titled Heart of the matter, that was critical of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (“statins”). The program questioned the link between high cholesterol levels and cardiovascular disease, and suggested that the benefits of statins had been overstated and the harms downplayed.1 Nearly 1.5 million Australians are estimated to have viewed each part of the program.2

Statins are recommended nationally and internationally both for primary prevention of cardiovascular events in people at increased risk of cardiovascular disease, and for secondary prevention in those with established cardiovascular disease.3,4 They are the most commonly prescribed medicines in Australia,5 used by over 30% of the population aged 50 years and older.6

Considerable media debate and backlash from the medical community followed the Catalyst program, including criticism for misleading patients.2,7 A National Heart Foundation survey of 1094 patients treated with lipid-modifying…