Sunday, April 25, 2010

FDA Approves Crestor for People with No Cholesterol Problems

On March 30th, the New York Times reported that the FDA had approved new criteria suggesting that an estimated 6.5 million Americans who have no cholesterol problems and no sign of heart problems be considered candidates for long-term use of cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. Specifically, the nation's drug watchdog agency approved the new criteria for Crestor, which is made by AstraZeneca and is the nation’s second best-selling statin. The company is already preparing its marketing campaign. (“Feeling healthy? Don’t Be Too Sure . ..)

While statin drugs have been undeniably successful in lowering cholesterol, they come with numerous and serious side effects. Among the possible side effects acknowledged by AstraZenica are headache, muscle pain (myalgia), abdominal pain, weakness and nausea. Other side effects known to be associated with the drug include increased risk of type 2 diabetes, liver enzyme abnormalities, memory loss, rhabdomyolysis (the breakdown of muscle fiber) and kidney failure. Here is a good summary of the side effects of statin class drugs.

You would think that recommending the drug to millions of people with none of the symptoms it is intended to treat would at least result in significant health benefits in exchange for assuming these additional risks. But the single study leading to the expanded approval produced only a 0.2% improvement vs the control group. That is, 2 people out of 1,000 did better than those taking sugar pills. In the case of this seeming healthy group of patients, “Ultimately, the benefit is statistically significant but not clinically significant," says Dr. Steven W. Seiden, a cardiologist in Rockville Centre, N.Y. “The benefit is vanishingly small,” Seiden added. “It just turns a lot of healthy people into patients and commits them to a lifetime of medication."

A lifetime of very expensive medication.
“Crestor, which had sales of $4.5 billion last year, will not be subject to generic competition until 2016 — and so (AstraZenica) has more years to benefit from expanded use of the product at name-brand prices,” observed NYTimes reporter Duff Wilson, the Times article's author. “The drug, taken as a daily pill, sells for at least $3.50 a day, compared with only pennies a day for some generic statins." You can do the math. Pharmaceutical companies are on record that they want to have half the population of the USA on statin drugs (Lipitor, Crestor, Zocor, etc).

Given their serious potential side effects, given that there is no definitive proof that the drugs actually reduce the risk of heart attack (that they lower cholesterol levels is proven) and given that numerous alternatives for reducing cholesterol exist, many medical experts question whether this loosening of the regulatory guidelines is a healthy move. You should too.

Monday, April 5, 2010

MLM as Retirement Planning

Early last month, NPR ran a series exploring the impact of the stock market crash and subsequent recession on Americans' retirement plans and resources. The need to rebuild retirement nest-eggs that have fallen 40% or more in value was understandably daunting. "It was really frustrating and (my husband and I) discussed, well should we stop investing and invest all the money in a vacation home," said Victoria Banales, an educator from Idaho. "I distrust (the market), but on the other hand I also keep investing, hoping somehow we'll find some kind of combination that will still help us save for retirement."

That seemed to be the general sentiment. I don't trust it, I don't understand it, I don't like it. But I keep putting money into it because, well, because I don't know what else to do.

So here is an idea that may seem a little out of the box but, upon closer examination, makes a good deal of sense (at least to me). Find yourself a good direct selling/multi-level marketing company (I've talked about what took look for and what to avoid in an MLM company before), one with products you like, want to use and do believe in. Become a distributor at the highest profit level that you can comfortably afford. Start to consistently devote time to it, every week. This doesn't have to (and should not) take over your life. It doesn't have to seriously cut into your family time or interfere with your career. The key here is consistency. Doing something every day, every week, even for just a couple of hours. Obviously if you devote more time you should achieve success faster, but the important element here is to be consistent.

If you have chosen well and work consistently, you will begin to generate residual income. A couple of hundred extra dollars a month could well make the difference between being able to retire and having to keep working. A few thousand dollars a month could lift your retirement lifestyle to a whole new level. You can stop working this business whenever your income reaches a level with which you are satisfied, and continue to receive that income for many years after, perhaps even for the rest of your life (and, in some cases, your children's lives). And, of course, you don't ever have to stop working at it a few hours a week unless you really want to. No booms and crashes to fret about, no worries about "running out", no concerns over changing government rules or company accounting "adjustments".

Now make no mistake, this is no "get rich quick" scheme. Like anything else worthwhile it takes effort and it takes time. But what else are you doing right now that will continue to pay you a few hundred or a few thousand (or even much more) dollars every month for the rest of your life? So there, Victoria, is something else you could do. Maybe its not right for you, but you owe it to yourself to evaluate and consider it.