WA doctors say they are still dealing with the fallout from a controversial ABC program on anti-cholesterol drugs that was yesterday removed from the national broadcaster's website for breaching impartiality.
More than six months after the two-part Catalyst investigation went to air, suggesting statins were overprescribed and doing more harm than good, the ABC's Audience and Consumer Affairs Unit found the second episode breached impartiality standards.
The television show's claims sparked an outcry from doctors, who were inundated with patients asking if they should stop taking the medication.
Australian Medical Association WA president Richard Choong said doctors were still regularly dealing with patients who had stopped their medication - or were considering doing so - because of the program.
"What's frustrating is this program had a detrimental impact on the health of the community . . . there's no accountability," Dr Choong said. "We will see the damage that this has done in the years to come."
He welcomed yesterday's decision but said the ABC should have removed the program from its website as soon as the investigation began.
WA Heart Foundation president and cardiologist John O'Shea said it was pleasing to see the "biased and very unbalanced" programs had been taken down.
"I and many other cardiologists had patients who when they saw this program stopped taking their statins, thinking they were on bad treatment," he said.
"I have had to spend a lot of my time talking them through the issue, but I worry about people who just stopped taking their medication without seeing their doctor."
The Audience and Consumer Affairs Unit report said while the subject matter was worthwhile, the second episode breached impartiality standards by omitting important information.
"By omitting a principal relevant view - held by the National Heart Foundation and other experts - that statins are useful in primary prevention if carefully targeted, the program had the effect of unduly favouring the perspective that statins are ineffective in primary prevention," it said. ABC managing director Mark Scott said the Catalyst programs were engaging, attracted large audiences and "clearly touched on an issue of importance to many Australians".
"The link between statins and heart disease is a matter warranting investigation and coverage on our programs," he said.
"I would like to see our science programs on radio and TV work together to revisit it, whilst taking absolute care to comply with our rigorous editorial policies."