Inaccuarte Risk Predictor Calculator sponsored by the Drug Industry?

Posted on October 21, 2010 - 1:50pm

A September 20, 2010, NYTimes article describes inaccurate outcomes with a point based tool to calculate your chances of developing coronary artery disease & stroke over the next 10 years. The simplified system was developed so doctors and patients would not need a computer. Each risk factor corresponds to a number of points; the more points you have, the higher your risk.

While easy to use, the original calculator is significantly more reliable  and based on a complicated mathematical formula developed from evidence by the Framingham Heart Study. Both formulas require the same seven pieces of information: age, sex, total cholesterol, “good” HDL cholesterol, smoking status, systolic blood pressure and whether one takes drugs for hypertension.

Before reading the remaining article, please be assured that the Ten Year Risk Assessment tool found on this website is based on the original formula (not "point based"), and certainly not sponsored by the drug industry.

Unlike the original version, the simplified tool remains in broad use because it has been programmed into many web sites and computer applications. And because most of these programs will not tell you which method is being employed, the point based system may over-estimate your risk and thus cause unnecessary prescriptions for cholesterol lowering medications.

As the article stated, "The number of Americans potentially affected is in the millions. Ten percent of adults are shifted into higher-risk groups by the simplified system; at the same time, the system underestimates the risk for 5 percent of adults, who might benefit from more aggressive therapy. Women are disproportionately represented among the low-risk patients who are shifted into a higher-risk category." 
The article also included a statement  that the drug industry  may have promoted the less accurate method to expand the market share of patients who are eligible for cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.

(From: Web Tool to Check Heart Risk Is Doubted By RONI CARYN RABIN, NYTimes, September 20, 2010)