Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[NY Times Article] Risk Calculator for Cholesterol Appears Flawed

From the 17 November 2013 article at the NY Times

Last week, the nation’s leading heart organizations released a sweeping new set of guidelines for lowering cholesterol, along with anonline calculator meant to help doctors assess risks and treatment options. But, in a major embarrassment to the health groups, the calculator appears to greatly overestimate risk, so much so that it could mistakenly suggest that millions more people are candidates for statin drugs.

The apparent problem prompted one leading cardiologist, a past president of the American College of Cardiology, to call on Sunday for a halt to the implementation of the new guidelines.

“It’s stunning,” said the cardiologist, Dr. Steven Nissen, chief of cardiovascular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. “We need a pause to further evaluate this approach before it is implemented on a widespread basis.”

The controversy set off turmoil at the annual meeting of theAmerican Heart Association, which started this weekend in Dallas. After an emergency session on Saturday night, the two organizations that published the guidelines — the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology — said that while the calculator was not perfect, it was a major step forward, and that the guidelines already say patients and doctors should discuss treatment options rather than blindly follow a calculator.

Dr. Sidney Smith, the executive chairman of the guideline committee, said the associations would examine the flaws found in the calculator and determine if changes were needed. “We need to see if the concerns raised are substantive,” he said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “Do there need to be changes?”

The problems were identified by two Harvard Medical School professors whose findings will be published Tuesday in a commentary in The Lancet, a major medical journal.

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November 18, 2013 - Posted by | health care | , , , , , , , ,

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