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Researchers Say 11 Million Americans Are Taking The Wrong Aspirin, Statins, And Blood Pressure Medications

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A new study reveals that 11 million Americans might be taking the wrong medicine to prevent cardiovascular disease. The pooled cohort equations (PCEs) likely have outdated data.  ( Pixabay )

As people get older, it is only natural for them to take medicine to minimize the risk of a heart attack or stroke. A new study, however, suggests that the calculation behind the medicine might be false.

Background Of PCEs

Pooled cohort equations or PCEs are used to determine the risk of cardiovascular disease and to decide the best preventive methods for a heart attack or stroke. Physicians use PCEs to determine what combination of aspirin, statin, or blood pressure medication a patient should take.

An online calculator or app helps determine a patient's risk for cardiovascular health issues. The patient's medical history, family history, age, race, and lifestyle are used in this calculation. The tools estimate if the patient could get a heart attack or stroke within the next 10 years.

There has been some dispute among doctors about the data with PCEs. Researchers at Stanford University studied PCEs to see if they are still helpful.

"What initially prompted us to do this study was a patient I had, an African-American gentleman who I thought was at pretty high risk for a heart attack or stroke," said Dr. Sanjay Basu. "But when I put his information into the web calculator, it returned a bizarrely low-risk estimate."

The Study To Find The Problems Of PCEs

Researchers have found that more than 11 million Americans may be taking the wrong combination of medicine because the data with PCEs might not be accurate. The findings were published on June 5 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The first problem is that the original equations were based on people who were aged 30 to 62 in 1948. It did not take into account new medical breakthroughs, diets, and other environmental factors over the decades. The estimations might be off as much as 20 percent.

"Relying on our grandparents' data to make our treatment choices is probably not the best idea," said Basu.

The other problem is that old data likely did not include enough samples from people of color. Basu said that physicians have wrongly estimated that cardiovascular risks for African Americans.

Future Implications For PCEs

To improve PCEs, Basu suggests modernizing the data behind the equations and updating the statistical methods for the equations. Basu and his colleagues also updated the data so that there could be more accurate projections for patients.

Patients who have used PCEs should also speak to their doctors about the new suggestions so that they can receive a more accurate diagnosis.

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