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Important news today:

Leading doctors urged a return to older, tried-and-true treatments for high cholesterol after hearing full results Sunday of a failed trial of Vytorin.

Millions of Americans already take the drug or one of its components, Zetia. But doctors were stunned to learn that Vytorin failed to improve heart disease even though it worked as intended to reduce three key risk factors.

Never mind the dubious ethics of holding these results back for two years, what is clear from both this and earlier study results –

Some doctors noted that hormone pills for menopausal women and torcetrapib, a promising cholesterol drug Pfizer Inc. recently abandoned, also lowered cholesterol but were found in big studies to raise heart risks, not lower them.

– is that the relationship between cholesterol level and heart disease is simply not understood.

I, like many people, have been assayed for 'good' and 'bad' cholesterol levels (and told that my levels were OK) but I wonder now if that has any real meaning in terms of my likelihood of getting heart disease.

So, another lesson, as I know full well from my own unrelated work, in over-simplifying scientific conclusions into health strategies. The AIDS vaccine story is yet another example of heading down an unproductive alley.

Ultimately, the answers will only be found through basic research, but funding is getting tighter and tighter for that unexciting avenue. A big mistake.