This never would’ve happened if the AHA/AAC had put Andrew Levey in charge of their risk calculator

Two items of note struck me this morning. The first was the fumble with the new cholesterol recommendations. The guidelines have been taking heat largely because they dramatically expand usage of statins in populations with that receive little to no benefit front he drug.

TheNNT is one of my favorite websites for patient discussions.

The last thing the new recommendations needed was a headline in the paper of record showing that their calculator over estimated 10 year cardiac risk by a mere 75 to 150 percent:

This week, after they saw the guidelines and the calculator, Dr. Ridker and Dr. Cook evaluated it using three large studies that involved thousands of people and continued for at least a decade. They knew the subjects’ characteristics at the start — their ages, whether they smoked, their cholesterol levels, their blood pressures. Then they asked how many had heart attacks or strokes in the next 10 years and how many would the risk calculator predict. 

Look what that risk calculator did to that Church!

The answer was that the calculator overpredicted risk by 75 to 150 percent, depending on the population. A man whose risk was 4 percent, for example, might show up as having an 8 percent risk. With a 4 percent risk, he would not warrant treatment — the guidelines that say treatment is advised for those with at least a 7.5 percent risk and that treatment can be considered for those whose risk is 5 percent.

That’s a big miss and I think it threatens to be a big mess if people lose confidence in our cardiology experts and their guidelines.

 It is interesting that this story is just getting legs today. The alarm was raised on the day the guidelines were released. From Medscape:

To heartwire , Dr Roger Blumenthal (Johns Hopkins Medical Institute, Baltimore, MD), who was not part of the writing committee, said he agreed with 90% of the information in the new guidelines. “To put that in perspective, I probably only agree with my wife 85% of the time,” he said. 

Namely, he is a little troubled by the new atherosclerotic risk score. Derived from FHS, ARIC, CARDIA, and CHS, it hasn’t performed all that well when applied to other cohorts, such as the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) and Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) study, he said. The risk score does not take into account family history of premature cardiovascular disease, triglycerides, waist circumference, body-mass index, lifestyle habits, and smoking history. 

“In my mind, we’re putting a lot of faith in this risk score,” said Blumenthal. “We’re probably going to be treating many more people, especially many more ethnic minorities, who get above this 7.5% threshold.”

In the end, I think we can agree that the cardiologists should leave the equations and formulas to the nephrologists, namely Andrew Levey. Hence the second item of note. Andrew Levey won the prestigious Belding Scribner Award. Levey is best known for creating the MDRD eGFR estimating formula and its successor the CKD-Epi formula.

I have gotten to know him as he is the editor and chief AJKD and spearheaded the creation of eAJKD. During every one of my encounters with him he has been humble, witty and friendly. During his Scibner acceptance speech he revealed that he considers his greatest moment in nephrology to be donating a kidney to his wife.

Levey donated a kidney to his wife. TLA. #kidneywk13
— Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) November 9, 2013

What a mensch.

There is a great interview with Andre Levey at eAJKD today. Take a moment and read it.