Some Doctors Challenge New Statin Guidelines
They say too many people would get the cholesterol-lowering drugs; heart groups defend the recommendations
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"The truth is, the risk equations work exactly the way we asked them to," Lloyd-Jones said.
Officials from both heart groups added that just because the calculator suggests some people would benefit from statins doesn't mean they absolutely have to take them.
Instead, the calculator should prompt a conversation with their doctor about whether they need to take statins or undertake other lifestyle changes to lower their cholesterol.
"We're acknowledging the unique judgment of a physician when he looks at the patient's specific condition," said Dr. Neil Stone, chair of the AHA's cholesterol guideline committee and a professor of preventive cardiology at Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine.
Cardiologists are concerned that the confusion surrounding the calculator and new cholesterol treatment guidelines could cause patients to refuse to take statins.
"I fear that the confusion is going to shake the public's confidence in these lifesaving drugs," said Dr. Kevin Marzo, chief of cardiology at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. "It is my hope that the guideline writers will revise the online calculator so that any deficiencies created will be quickly corrected."
The two heart groups unveiled the calculator last week in connection with aggressive new guidelines for combating high cholesterol. Those guidelines call for the use of statins to treat more people.
Previously, doctors adhered to rigid clinical guidelines to prescribe a statin when cholesterol levels reached a certain threshold.
Under the new guidelines, people will be advised to take statins based on a number of different health risk factors. These risk factors include if they already have heart disease, if their bad (LDL) cholesterol is extremely high (190 milligrams per deciliter of blood or more) or if they're middle-aged with type 2 diabetes.
In addition, people between 40 and 75 years of age with an estimated 10-year risk of heart disease of 7.5 percent or more are advised to take a statin. Experts say this new rule could greatly alter the number of patients who will now be advised to take such a drug.
"We've come up with an approach that calls for treating about a third of adults between 40 and 75 years of age with statins for primary prevention," said Dr. David Goff, co-chair of the risk assessment working group for the guidelines and dean of the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado-Denver.