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Cholesterol Drug Guidelines Stir Debate

Over-Treatment Possible, Some Doctors Say

CBS New York (con't)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Some experts say that new guidelines for administering cholesterol-lowering drugs will put too many Americans on the medication known as statins.

Last week, the nation’s top heart organizations released the guidelines about who should receive the drugs and a new online calculator. But as CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported, some doctors are raising concerns that the calculator overestimates the risk of heart attack or stroke, which could result in over-treatment.

Doctors used to rely on specific cholesterol levels to determine which patients needed statins. The new guidelines, however, recommend the drugs for four high-risk groups: patients with cardiovascular disease, those with a bad cholesterol level of 190 or higher, those between 40 and 75 years of age with type 2 diabetes and those with a 10-year risk of heart attack of stroke of at least 7.5 percent, according to the risk calculator.

Dr. Tara Narula, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, said most of the guidelines are a step in the right direction, but she added that she warns patients about the risk of side effects such as muscle degeneration and liver damage.

“We need more information before we start to make clinical decisions and change our practice,” she said.

The experts who wrote the guidelines are defending them, saying any flaws in the formula are small and doctors should not delay putting the new advice into practice.

Many cardiologists say that aggressive statin use is largely responsible for the declining rates of heart disease in the U.S. Patients should discuss their individual cases before starting on any medication.

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