Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Phrolicking Phun With Pharmaceutical Phools

A company called Acurian is conducting a clinical trial on cholesterol

You'll never guess what I got in the mail today. If they knew this would get into the hands of Mr. "Livin' La Vida Low-Carb" personally, then I would venture to guess it would have never been sent to my mailbox. :D Too bad for them, it was!

What is it? It's an invitation to participate in a brand new clinical trial on an "investigational medicine for high cholesterol." Yep, it a research study on yet ANOTHER drug promising to lower your cholesterol. As if we didn't have enough already with Lipitor, Crestor, Zetia, and other such medicinal nightmares! UGH!

Technically, this letter was not addressed to Jimmy Moore, but rather my wife Christine. She was recently diagnosed with high cholesterol by her doctor, including triglycerides around 300. EEEK!

I gave her the old "ya know, if you stopped eating and drinking all that sugar then your triglycerides would fall" lecture shortly thereafter. She's working on it now, but still has to make it a lifetime commitment. See, livin' la vida low-carb CAN be about health and not just weight loss!

We can only assume our doctor either gave or sold his mailing list of "high-cholesterol" patients to this place conducting the study named Acurian, a clinical trial administrative company based near Philadelphia in Horsham, Pennsylvania. Interestingly, they are headquartered very closely to just about every single one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Coincidence? Don't be a fool!

The letter itself is very limited in the information it provides about the trial itself. They are looking specifically for individuals with "high cholesterol" who are willing or have family members willing to participate.

Here's what they promise for those who do:

- Cholesterol screening and study medication at no charge
- Potential compensation for your time and travel
- The opportunity to help others who struggle with high cholesterol

That last one is what got me the most. How arrogant and presumptuous is it of them to ASSUME this latest drug is going to actually help people with their health, hmmm? We've been sold a sadistic bill of goods on this "great cholesterol con" as independent researcher Anthony Colpo has so succinctly put it.

Nevertheless, these pharmaceutical companies have still tried their darndest to fool people into thinking they have "high cholesterol" even when they may be perfectly fine.

This letter was actually "signed" (electronically, of course!) by someone named Dr. Christopher A. Haines, MD. I Googled Dr. Haines to see where he is from and found from this bio page about him that he is a clinical instructor in the Department of Family Medicine in the Division of Geriatric Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital located in (where else?) Philadelphia--yep, the same city where all those major pharmaceutical companies reside.

Undoubtedly, the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is where the hundreds of clinical trials on a variety of new drugs are conducted and Dr. Haines is merely one among many involved in this process. Why would they keep all this kind of information such a secret from the recipients of this letter? It's nice to know they actually used a real person to sign the letter rather than a fake one, but it took a little digging to find out who this man actually is. Wassup with that?

Anyways, just out of curiosity, I decided to call up the toll-free telephone number that was provided about this clinical trial to see if they would give me some more information about it.

When I called 1-866-907-5526 between 8am and 10pm EST Monday through Friday, a very nice woman came on the line and asked me if I would like to sign up for the study. I told her I had a few questions about it first and if she would be willing to answer those for me. She responded in the affirmative, so I asked three questions.

1. What is your definition of "high cholesterol?"

Her answer: "A total cholesterol of over 200."

2. What is the purpose of the study? Raise HDL? Lower LDL?

Her answer: "To make both the HDL and LDL equal."

3. What is the name of the pharmaceutical company for the drug and is it a statin?

Her answer: "The identity of our client is unknown and they should be able to answer your specific questions about the investigational drug once you sign up for the study."

Fascinating! So, forget about LDL, forget about HDL, it's all about the total cholesterol (which is a big crock, especially for people following a low-carb diet!). I am somewhat interested in the idea of making HDL and LDL equal--but then I go back to the absurd "garbage trucks" analogy that low-fat diet apologist Dr. Dean Ornish likes to pull out of his hat and scratch my head on that one. Even still, reducing LDL and total cholesterol too low can be detrimental to your health as we learned in this recent study.

I thanked the very kind woman on the phone for answering my questions and she invited me to sign up for the trial online at Just for kicks, I went to the web site and checked it out for myself. When you enter the 866-907-5526 telephone number to access the study, you see on the screen that it is for "ACURIAN PROJECT CODE 1041 Hypercholesterolemia."

You are then asked to provide your name, address, phone numbers, e-mail address, and more so they can get back in touch with you about the study. The woman I spoke with on the telephone said you can drop out of the study at any time during the trial and you are not obligated to take any medications you don't feel comfortable taking (i.e. my concern about bone and joint-jarring statin drugs).

What do you think about this? Should I sign up for this clinical trial just to see what it's all about? Talk about the perfect topic for me to conduct an investigative journalism report on, wouldn't ya say? It could be an enlightening journey just to see what it's all about.

In fact, it doesn't even have to be me--YOU could sign up for this clinical trial if you wanted to and report back to me what you find out about it. I'd be happy to blog your experiences. Consider yourself properly deputized to carry out your duty to educate and inform the masses about this cholesterol drug that's coming down the pike! Let me know if you take me up on this so I can keep tabs with you on it.

Let's have some phrolicking phun with the pharmaceutical phools who keep peddling these crazy pills on the public just so they can fatten their wallets while sacrificing the health of those who take these dangerous drugs.

Anyone who wants to sign up for this clinical trial and willing to report on your experience can e-mail me any information you get at I'm not saying you need to take this drug, just find out what you can about it so all of us can learn more about it.

Do I have any takers? :)

2-14-07 UPDATE: One of my regular readers who works in the healthcare industry had something to share about my theory regarding how Acurian may have gotten Christine's name.

Hi, Jimmy!

I read the following on your blog and am concerned:

"We can only assume our doctor either gave or sold his mailing list of 'high-cholesterol' patients to this place conducting the study named Acurian, a clinical trial administrative company based near Philadelphia in Horsham, Pennsylvania."

Did Christine sign something that said her doctor could share her PHI (Protected Health Information) with a pharmaceutical company? If she did not, and if her doctor did that, he is violating the HIPAA Privacy Rule. She may wish to ask him about it. This is not a legitimate way to recruit for a drug study.

To be honest, I don't know whether she did or not. But I can't imagine how else they would know that Christine has high cholesterol if it wasn't from her doctor's office since nobody else would be privy to that information. THANKS for the heads-up about this.

2-15-07 UPDATE: Another reader schooled in the ins and outs of this issue shared his unique perspective about the legalities of how Acurian may have obtained Christine's name and address for this clinical trial.


I don't know how well your other reader elaborated on the HIPPA violation but here is the website from the AMA that talks about what is or is not a violation.

I find the "coincidence" that Christine was diagnosed with "high cholesterol" and then receiving this a little too much to think that her name was not given out. This is a very big deal!!

We are trained and trained about HIPPA over and over again. If this information was given from your doctor's office, then someone there is breaking a federal law. It may not even be the doctor. It could be someone in the office who is being paid for this information.

In my position at work I fill out legal documents that go the centers for Medicare and Medicaid everyday. If I fill those out incorrectly or even willfully to make more money for my facility, I can be arrested, prosecuted and fined for fraud. Why would I do that? The answer is I wouldn't because I have a high morals and it wouldn't do anything for me financially.

This is just my opinion but I think you should talk to the doctor about it. If he is indeed foolishly risking his license, he needs to stop. Or, if someone in his office is doing this unbeknownst to him, he needs to know. I am giving him some amount of credit here because most doctors I know would not put their whole livelihood on the line for something like this.

You can tell me to butt out if you want. 8-) I just think that this needs to be nipped in the bud right away.

We may just do that today when we go see Christine's doctor for a cortisone shot in her knee. THANKS for your help!

2-15-07 UPDATE: We told our family doctor about this letter we got in the mail and he was QUITE concerned. He asked to make a copy of it and said he would try to find out how Christine's high cholesterol diagnosis got into the hands of Acurian. He said he didn't think it came from his office and that it is possible the mailing was random. But I retorted it was almost too coincidental. He agreed.

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Blogger cjcbrown said...

Dr. Mike Eades has a better explanation of Ornish's head-scratching garbage truck analog at his blog.

2/15/2007 2:00 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

THANKS, CJC Brown! I've previously read Dr. Eades' rebuttal to "garbage trucks" and appreciate the link.

2/15/2007 2:08 PM  
Blogger Cindy Moore said...

As I was reading this, I was also thinking about HIPPA.

It could have also been the lab that processed her blood. Don't let this go. Follow-up and try to get to the bottom of this. This is a very serious breach of privacy rights.

As for the study itself? I wouldn't sign up!!!

2/16/2007 12:52 AM  
Blogger Regina said...

As Cindy said....after reading the updates, and your doctor's response, I wondered - did they send her labs out for testing? Maybe the lab is guilty of a HIPPA violation?

2/16/2007 2:45 PM  
Blogger Jimmy Moore said...

We're trying to get to the bottom of it now. I'll let you know what I find out if anything.

2/16/2007 2:47 PM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I got one of these as well. I've got no answers from my calls to explain how they got this information; however, since I got both a letter to my home and an e-mail to my office, I strongly suspect Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield since few others have both of these items. This could also be explained; however, by data mining to connect my name with my home and office contact info.

10/24/2007 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I work for big bad pharma and am familiar with the practices of companies like Acurian and specifically Acurian. They do "data mine" information from a variety of sources but not your wife's doctor. Companies like Acurian pay for access into bigger healthcare databases that source from ICD9 coding, prescriptions written and filled, etc. They partner with chain pharmacies and the very likely reason as to why/how this occurred is that the mailing actually came from your pharmacy. Acurian doesn't actually know your wife's name but uses the pharmacies to direct information relevant to her medical history/prescribing habits. No violation of HIPAA but even I agree after seeing all the information that can be mined that it's very creepy and big brother-ish. They link prescribing history to your spending habits to your demographics to your magazine just goes on and on. That's not big pharma, that's just our government and the current state of our country. Everybody's watching and mostly in an attempt to direct your spending their way...

1/13/2010 5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, somehow left out that it's your insurance claim forms that largely source these databases when it comes to health information...

1/13/2010 5:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I received this letter too. I have a habit of changing the spelling of my name when I sign up for free catalogs or with any company I feel like might sell my name and information. My current and former pharmacies have the correct spelling of my name... This letter is addressed using a spelling of my name that I've not used in years... My best guess is I abandoned this particular misspelling probably 8-10 years ago and never bought a single thing online using it. Hope this helps.

9/29/2011 9:23 PM  

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