The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology released new guidelines on who should take cholesterol-lowering drugs. Currently about one-quarter of Americans over the age of 40 are taking a drug to lower their cholesterol.
According to The New York Times, the new guidelines were intended to simplify the process of deciding who should be on cholesterol-lowering medications. But experts fear it’s made the decision more complex:
It is not clear whether more or fewer people will end up taking the drugs under the new guidelines, experts said. Many women and African-Americans, who have a higher-than-average risk of stroke, may find themselves candidates for treatment, but others taking statins only to lower LDL cholesterol to target levels may no longer need them.
Experts also worry that the new guidelines could slow the development of newer cholesterol-lowering drugs currently in the pipeline.
The previous guidelines put such a strong emphasis on lowering cholesterol levels by specific amounts that patients who did not hit their target levels just by taking statins often were prescribed additional drugs…But the new guidelines say doctors should no longer prescribe those extra medicines because they have never been shown to prevent heart attacks or strokes.
Finally, one expert believes the new guidelines will benefit no one — but drug companies.
This announcement is not a result of a sudden epidemic of heart disease, nor is it based on new data showing the benefits of lower cholesterol. Instead, it is a consequence of simply expanding the definition of who should take the drugs — a decision that will benefit the pharmaceutical industry more than anyone else.