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Some of the nation’s most influential cardiologists are challenging new recommendations that would greatly expand the number of Americans taking a statin medication to reduce their chances of a heart attack or stroke.
The guidelines issued last week by the American Heart Assn. and the American College of Cardiology were accompanied by a “risk calculator” that was supposed to identify patients whose odds of suffering either a stroke or a heart attack over the next 10 years were judged to be at least 7.5%. These patients could reduce their risk by taking a low-dose statin, the medical groups said. The calculator’s individualized estimates were based on age, gender, total cholesterol, blood pressure and smoking history, among other variables.
But a Harvard University cardiologist and his biostatistician collaborator have taken the freshly minted recommendations to task, arguing that they were formulated with unreliable data on Americans’ health and that the calculations about which patients should take a statin are wildly off base.