More Guideline Controversy: The Tricky Business Of Calculating Cardiovascular Risk Reply

Calculating cardiovascular risk has become a central and highly controversial component of cardiovascular guidelines. Now a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine finds that most of the commonly employed tools seriously overestimate the risk of people today.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

New US Guidelines Will Lift Limits On Dietary Cholesterol Reply

The influential  Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has recommended that limitations on dietary cholesterol be removed from the upcoming 2015 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Recommendations to reduce dietary cholesterol have been a mainstay of the USDA and other guidelines for many years, starting with guidelines from the American Heart Association in the 1960s.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

 

Another Study Raises Questions About Blood Pressure Guidelines Reply

Although the general benefits of lowering high blood pressure are widely accepted, there has been intense debate over specific goals for treatment and the threshold at which therapy should be initiated.  A large new meta-analsysis published in JAMA helps shed lights on this important controversy.

UK and Australian researchers analyzed the effect of lowering blood pressure in people with type 2 diabetes using data from more than 100,00 people who participated in 40 trials.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Salt, Science, And The American Heart Association’s Double Standard Reply

Once again the American Heart Association is sticking by its recommendation that pretty much everyone should consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day. This is dramatically lower than the 3,500 mg/d the average American now consumes. In a blog post reprinted on MedPage Today the president of the American Heart Association,  Elliott Antman, assails a study published earlier this week which found no benefits– and even a hint of harm–  for elderly people with low sodium consumption.

But Antman only tells one side of the story.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

How Much Salt Should Old People Consume? Reply

A new study offers fresh evidence that current salt recommendations should be taken with, well, a grain of salt. Current guidelines now recommend that everyone should have sodium intake levels below 2300 mg per day. For many people at higher risk, including everyone over 50 years of age, sodium intake should be below 1500 mg/d. (The American Heart Association promotes the more rigorous goal of 1500 mg/d for everyone.) But a 2013 report from the Institute of Medicine, along with findings from the PURE study published last year, have raised concerns that the lower target level in particular is neither practical nor beneficial.

The new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, looks at the growing and important elderly patient population…

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

 

Another Diet Myth Exploded: Gradual Weight Loss No Better Than Rapid Weight Loss Reply

Once again, a popular weight loss myth has been exploded. It has been widely believed that weight loss, which is nearly always difficult to maintain, is even less likely to stay lost if it is the product of a rapid weight loss. The belief is even enshrined in current guidelines. Now a study published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology provides no support for this view. Instead, the study suggests that although long-term weight loss remains elusive regardless of the diet, short-term weight loss is actually more likely with rapid weight loss.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

A ‘Disappeared’ Article, Finally Published, Finds A Desultory Response To Scientific Misconduct Reply

Back in January an article in the European Heart Journal raising the disturbing possibility that guidelines based on fraudulent research may have been responsible for as many as 800,000 deaths was “disappeared” from the journal’s website only minutes after being published. The journal’s editor claimed the article had not been properly peer reviewed. In its place the editors published an editorial refuting the claims of the article, though of course they were responding to an article that no one could then actually read. Now, eight months later, a revised version of the original article, by British cardiologists and gadflies Graham Cole and Darrel Francis, has finally been published. The new version raises even more disturbing questions about the potentially lethal effects of such fraudulent research not only on clinical practice but on the credibility and worth of the entire scientific enterprise.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Cardiology Group Withdraws ‘Choosing Wisely’ Recommendation Reply

In the end it wasn’t wisdom for the ages. The American College of Cardiology said today that it was withdrawing one of its five recommendations in the “Choosing Wisely” campaign.  In 2012 the ACC recommended that heart attack patients should have only their culprit artery unblocked. It said that patients and caregivers should question whether complete revascularization of all nonculprit lesions in heart attack patients should be performed.

The original recommendation was based on non-randomized studies suggesting that treating all significantly blocked vessels in heart attack patients could be harmful. “However,” the ACC now states, “over the last two years, new science has emerged showing potential improvements for some patients in their overall outcomes as a result of complete revascularization.”

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Why Guidelines Should Be Waged Like War 1

Here’s a modest proposal: we need fewer and shorter guidelines. In fact, I’d like to propose that guidelines, like war, should be waged only when there is absolute consensus and overwhelming evidence.

Anyone interested in the subject is aware that guidelines are in a complete mess.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 707

United Nations Security Council Resolution 707 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

An Old Study Fuels Debate Over Blood Pressure Guidelines Reply

In the last year new guidelines relating to cardiovascular disease have been the subject of intense criticism and debate. The status of the blood pressure guidelines has been particularly contentious, since several different groups have published contradictory guidelines, while several authors of the most prominent group, the Eighth Joint National Committee, published an impassioned dissent from their own published guideline. Many hypertension experts have taken aim at the change in therapeutic target for systolic blood pressure in patients age 60 or older, from 140 mm Hg to 150 mm Hg.

In an attempt to determine the optimal blood pressure for patients age 60 or older, Sripal Bangalore and colleagues performed a post-hoc analysis of 8,354 patients who participated in the INVEST trial, who were age 60 or older, and who had a baseline systolic blood pressure greater than 150 mm Hg…

Click here to read the full post on Forbes, including comments from Sripal Bangalore and Harlan Krumholz.

 

An Expert’s Perspective: Why Salt Is Not Like Tobacco And Why Guidelines Are Tricky Reply

At the center of this week’s renewed debate on salt was Salim Yusuf, the long influential and often controversial cardiology researcher and clinical trialist based at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. I spoke with Yusuf before the publication of the New England Journal of Medicine papers, which include his own two papers from the PURE study.

Yusuf was troubled by the tone of the salt debate. He’s no stranger to scientific controversies and intense disagreement, but “scientific criticism is one thing, personal attack is another,” he said. Because he has presented data that suggests that moderately high levels of sodium may not be as bad as some had thought, and that very low levels of sodium may actually be harmful, “we’ve come under huge attack.”

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

New Studies Fuel The Debate Over Sodium Reply

Three papers and an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine are sure to throw fresh fuel on the ongoing fiery debate over sodium recommendations. Current guidelines recommend that people should limit their intake of sodium to 1.5  to 2.4 grams per day, but these recommendations are based on projections and have never been tested in clinical trials or other large studies.

Two papers from the  ongoing Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study offer fresh evidence against the low sodium recommendations.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Guideline Critics Shift Attacks From Beta Blockers To Statins Reply

With the release today of updated European and US guidelines the ongoing controversy regarding beta-blockers appears to be resolved. But that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be an outbreak of guideline peace and harmony. The critics who helped ignite the controversy over beta blockers now say new statin recommendations contained in the guidelines are based on deeply flawed evidence.

Both the new European and US guidelines say that preoperative initiation of statin therapy may be considered in patients undergoing vascular surgery and that people already taking statins should continue taking them. Now some of the same critics who attacked the reliability of the beta blocker guideline say that this recommendation is not supported by the evidence.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

 

 

Dutch Investigation Finds Serious Flaws In Influential New England Journal Of Medicine Study Reply

Erasmus Medical Center says it has wrapped up its investigation of Don Poldermans, the disgraced cardiology researcher who was fired for research misconduct. The full extent of the misconduct has never been known, and from an examination of the Erasmus report it appears likely that it never will be known.

One major finding– though downplayed in the medical center’s press release– is that the most prestigious and influential publication from the Poldermans’ group, the 1999 publication of the DECREASE 1 study in the New England Journal of Medicine– appears to be riddled with serious problems.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

 

Medicine faculty of the Erasmus MC, taken in t...

Medicine faculty of the Erasmus MC, taken in the afternoon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Prophylactic ICDs Appear Effective In Less Severe HF Patients Reply

ICDs are routinely implanted in heart failure patients with ejection fractions (EFs) of 35% and lower to prevent sudden cardiac death. However, the benefits in patients at the higher end of the spectrum– between 30% and 35%– have not been well demonstrated in clinical trials, since few patients in this range have been enrolled in clinical trials.

Now a new study published in JAMA suggests that the benefits in this group are similar to the benefits in heart failure patients with more severely depressed EFs.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

12.8 Million More Adults Now Eligible For Statin Therapy Reply

Millions more people are now eligible for statin therapy under the new cholesterol guideline, according to a new estimate published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

There have been many attempts to quantify just how many more people are now eligible for statin therapy under the new guideline. Now in the new paper in NEJM, Michael Pencina and colleagues estimate that the new guideline results in a net increase of 12.8 million people who are now eligible for statins.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Heart Societies Issue New Guidelines For Valve Disease Reply

The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology today released new practice guidelines [PDF] for the management of patients with valvular heart disease (VHD). Among its most notable features, the new document provides a new system of classification for VHD and lowers the threshold for interventions, including, for the first time, transcatheter as well as surgical interventions.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Minority Report: Five Guideline Authors Reject Change In Blood Pressure Goal Reply

It didn’t seem possible but the guideline situation just got even more confusing. Last December, after  years of delay and other twists and turns, the Eighth Joint National Committee (JNC 8) hypertension guideline was published in JAMA. The previous guideline recommended that all adults have a target systolic blood pressure below 140 mm Hg. In the new guideline, the target remained the same for adults under 60 years of age but for people over the age of 60 the new guideline set a more conservative, easier-to-achieve target of 150 mm Hg or lower.

Now, however,  five of the 17 JNC 8 authors have written a commentary, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, disagreeing with this change. They say they are in agreement with the other major recommendations of JNC 8 but that they reject the new target, arguing that the evidence does not support the change, and predict that the change may well lead to harmful consequences.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

Confusion

 

Cardiology in 2013: Like A Wrecking Ball 1

Perhaps I’m being overdramatic but I think  the best metaphor for the year in cardiology is Miley Cyrus on the wrecking ball.

The Guidelines Wrecking Ball: Like Hannah Montana guidelines are supposed to be boring and reliable.  But in 2013 the guidelines were more like Miley Cyrus. Like a wrecking ball, the NIH abandoned its long-entrenched and highly influential role in producing cholesterol and hypertension guidelines. Then the new ACC/AHA guidelines came along, abandoning tradition and targets and adopting a whole new approach. But the controversy didn’t go away. One easy prediction for 2014: we’ll see more debate about guidelines.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

Wrecking Ball

The New Guidelines

Miley Cyrus- Note: Cropped from larger image

The Old Guidelines

Missing High Blood Pressure Guideline Turns Up In JAMA Reply

After  years of delay and many twists and turns, the hypertension guideline originally commissioned by the NIH has now finally been published in JAMA. The evidence-based document contains a major revision of hypertension treatment targets and includes new and somewhat simplified recommendations for drug treatment.

The previous US hypertension guideline was published more than a decade ago. After many delays the new guideline was ready for publication earlier this year, but then the NIH decided to get out of the guidelines business. The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology assumed responsibility for the development and publication of cardiovascular guidelines and last month published four new cardiovascular guidelines, with the notable exception of the hypertension guideline. As an accompanying JAMA editorial explains:  “Rather than go through an additional review process with the AHA and the ACC the authors decided to publish their guideline in JAMA on their own.”

The big headline of the new guideline is an important change in treatment targets.

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

Original illustration by Max Husten

Original illustration by Max Husten

Dispatch From The Wild Frontier Of The Statin Wars Reply

The long simmering controversy over the relative benefits and harms of statins has heated to a high boil with the release of the new AHA/ACC US guidelines. But nowhere is the battle more intense right now than in Australia where, according to the National Heart Foundation, a TV show may be the cause of 2,000 heart attacks and strokes over the next five years.

The show was a 2-part documentary  (click here for part 1 and part 2) broadcast in October on the Australian ABC network about dietary fat and cholesterol.

The program, wrote Amy Corderoy, the health editor of the Sydney Morning Herald, “claimed the causal link between saturated fat, cholesterol and heart disease was ‘the biggest myth in medical history’… [and described statins] as toxic and potentially deadly.”

Catalyst delved into a raging debate: has dietary guidance telling us to avoid fats pushed us towards more harmful sugar and carbohydrates instead?

But the program also went a step further, arguing cholesterol was just an innocent bystander in the body’s attempts to deal with the sugar-damage. It was not a big leap to claim statins were dangerous, and the research supporting them fraudulent.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

Heart of the Matter screen shot

 

 

After Long Wait, Updated US Cardiovascular Guidelines Now Emphasize Risk Instead Of Targets 1

Updated cardiovascular health guidelines were released today by  the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC). The guidelines are designed to provide primary care physicians with evidence-based expert guidance on cholesterol, obesity, risk assessment, and healthy lifestyle.

The new guidelines reinforce many of the same messages from previous guidelines, but also represent a sharp change in philosophy. That change is most evident in the new lipid guidelines, in which the focus has shifted away from setting numerical targets for cholesterol levels in favor of treatment decisions based on individual risk status.

“This guideline represents a departure from previous guidelines because it doesn’t focus on specific target levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, commonly known as LDL, or ‘bad cholesterol,’ although the definition of optimal LDL cholesterol has not changed,” said Neil J. Stone, chair of the lipid expert panel that wrote the new guideline. “Instead, it focuses on defining groups for whom LDL lowering is proven to be most beneficial.”

The long-awaited and often controversial guidelines are the successors to the extremely influential NHLBI guidelines, including the Adult Treatment Panel (ATP) series of guidelines that brought cholesterol to the consciousness of millions of people. Earlier this year the NHLBI announced that it would no longer issue guidelines but would, instead, provide support for guidelines produced by other organizations. Following the NHLBI announcement, the AHA and the ACC said that they would take over publication of the guidelines.

Statins Indicated for Four Broad Groups

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

Guideline Maze

Original illustration by Max Husten

 

Observational Study Lends Support to CRT Guidelines Reply

A large observational study published in JAMA suggests that patients with left bundle-branch block (LBBB) and longer QRS duration derive the most benefit from a cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillator (CRT-D). The findings appear to support current, but often criticized, guidelines from the American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, and the Heart Rhythm Society, in which a class I recommendation is restricted to patients with LBBB and QRS duration of 150 ms or greater.

Click here to read the full post on Forbes.

 

 

 

Hypertension And Cholesterol Guidelines Delayed Again As NHLBI Gets Out Of The Guidelines Business Reply

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) will no longer issue guidelines, including the much-delayed and much-anticipated hypertension (JNC 8) and cholesterol (ATP IV) guidelines. Instead, the NHLBI will perform systematic evidence reviews that other organizations, including the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, will use as a resource for their own guidelines.

The exact fate and form of the delayed hypertension and cholesterol guidelines has not yet been decided, though the NHLBI’s Michael Lauer said he was confident that these guidelines would appear in less than a year. But a lot of work remains before the documents can be published. ACC President John Harold said that  “the ACC has not formally agreed to or begun the process of updating” the NHLBI documents, “but we are open to this role and look forward to working out details with NHLBI and the American Heart Association.”

Click here to read the full story on Forbes.

 

NHLBI Director Dr. Gary Gibbons

NHLBI Director Dr. Gary Gibbons

New Guidelines Define State-of-the-Art STEMI Care Reply

New guidelines published online today in Circulation and the Journal of the American College of Cardiology provide an efficient overview of the best treatments for STEMI patients. (Click here to download the PDFs of the full version (64 pages) or the executive summary  (27 pages) of the 2013 ACCF/AHA Guideline for the Management of ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction.)

“We’re looking to a future where more patients survive with less heart damage and function well for years thereafter,” said Patrick O’Gara, the chair of the guidelines writing committee, in a press release. “We hope the guidelines will clarify best practices for healthcare providers across the continuum of care of STEMI patients.”

The new document strongly supports the establishment and maintenance of regional systems to treat STEMI, which should include assessment and continuous quality improvement programs.

Primary PCI remains the preferred method of reperfusion when it can be performed by experienced operators in a timely fashion. For people who can’t receive primary PCI within 120 minutes of arrival, fibrinolytic therapy should be given within 12 hours of the the onset of symptoms.

The first medical contact (FMC)-to-device time should be 90 minutes at PCI-capable hospitals. Patients who arrive at non PCI-capable hospitals should be transported to a PCI-capable hospital within 30 minutes and should be treated with a FMC-to-device system goal of 120 minutes of less.

Drug-eluting stents should not be used in patients who can’t or won’t comply with long-term dual antiplatelet therapy (DAPT). After receiving a stent patients should receive DAPT with aspirin and either clopidogrel, prasugrel, or ticagrelor.

Click here to read the AHA press release…