The newly-launched cholesterol calculator is under fire and Lancet has published its criticism. Unfortunately, for people long frustrated and disappointed by back and forth health arguments, this could be another reason to not seriously take any study on cholesterol. We know that no calculator is perfect, but we still need to find the most reliable way of identifying risks to allow patients get the best treatments available. There is no perfect formula that can incorporate various factors accurately when we asses risk of diseases; there are race, smoking habit, diet and weight. Sometimes, it’s necessary to include new factors, like inflammation.
When testing new ways for predicting diseases, scientists need to look back because a good way to accurately evaluate how new equations, models and formulas would work is to observe how patients are affected by the disease. They need incorporate all new information and see whether the new calculator can work correctly in anticipating diseases. Health professionals already did that when they designed the new calculator. The new model is aimed to predict the risk of people acquiring heart diseases by including various factors, not only cholesterol levels, but also blood pressure, smoking habit, gender, race and age. Unfortunately, there’s an avalanche of criticisms and confusion over the new calculator, because it isn’t clear how researchers developed the underlying formula.
After a closer examination, there seem to be a big problem with the calculator. Researchers tried to enter data taken from three major heart studies where all information of the participants are known, cholesterol levels, smoking habits and ages. But, apparently the new risk calculator over-inflated heart risks by 75 to 150 percent. This would create confusion on whether patients should be prescribed with statins. Consequently, apparent problems with this new calculator have prompted expert to suggest that its implementation should be postponed. Ideally, the risk calculator could assist doctors in evaluating risks among patients and determining ideal treatment options for those with elevated cholesterol levels.
But the new calculator might result in many people being misidentified as likely candidates for statins or other cholesterol-lowering drugs. According to the newly released guidelines, if patients’ risks are above 7.5 percent, they should immediately be put on a statin. In reality, the committee that developed the new calculator knew that it can potentially overestimate the assessment and they are willing to accept suggestions. Also, no patients should get “mailed prescriptions” solely based on online assessment tool. They still need to get involved in traditional doctor-patient discussion and doctors should be put back into the important decision-making process.