New heart disease risk tool finds 40% fewer people need statins: Study

A new risk assessment for heart disease found that 40% fewer people would meet the criteria for a statin prescription, NBC News reported June 11.

A study, published by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh in JAMA Internal Medicine, compared the results from PREVENT, a new heart disease risk calculator that was released by the American Heart Association last year, and the 2013 guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, the current standard. The study looked at data from 3,785 adults ages 40 to 75 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. 

The 10-year risk of developing heart disease determined by the new assessment was about half that of the older guidelines — meaning some 4 million people in the U.S. who currently take statins for primary prevention may not need them, the study authors said.

The new assessment, which was developed to be more accurate, removed race from the calculation and replaced it with a person's ZIP code, included factors such as kidney disease, obesity and a marker of poor blood sugar control, and calculated risk separately for men and women. 

With the new risk calculator, there will need to be new guidelines to go with it, Sadiya Khan, MD, chair of the committee for PREVENT development and a professor of cardiovascular epidemiology at the Chicago-based Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, told NBC.

"Risk models don't determine who is recommended to take statins, guidelines do," Dr. Khan said. "I think the most important thing is the determination of when it will be recommended to initiate statins. That has not been decided yet."

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