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Harvard vs. Oxford in a Multibillion-Dollar Cholesterol-Drug Cage Match

A nasty fight that pits big-name scientists at Harvard University and the University of Oxford against each other on the effectiveness of a multibillion-dollar class of drugs may be headed toward a settlement by month’s end. The trans-Atlantic spat centers on statins, the popular drugs such as AstraZeneca’s Crestor and Pfizer’s Lipitor that lower cholesterol levels, and whether they provide benefits that outweigh side effects for people at low risk of heart disease.

Harvard Medical School lecturer John Abramson and colleagues from California and Canada threw the first punch last October, when they published an analysis in the BMJ—formerly known as the British Medical Journal—concluding that statins convey no overall health benefit in such low-risk cases.