(HealthDay News) – A new online cholesterol risk calculator produced by two leading U.S. heart organizations is flawed and overstates a person’s risk of heart disease, a pair of Harvard Medical School professors say. The professors contend that this flaw could lead the calculator to mistakenly suggest that millions of people should be taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, The New York Times reported Monday.

Key officials with the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology stood by the calculator during a hastily gathered news conference Monday morning at the heart association’s annual meeting in Dallas. The two heart health groups said they created the calculator – as well as a set of aggressive new cholesterol-lowering guidelines – using a broad range of patient data that allowed them to incorporate factors that hadn’t been included in previous risk assessments.

When the online calculator went live last week, Harvard professors Paul Ridker, MD, and Nancy Cook, MD, who reportedly pointed out problems with the calculator a year ago, again tested it and reported serious flaws that could overestimate a person’s risk of heart disease by 75–150%, the Times reported.

Cardiologists are concerned that the confusion surrounding the calculator and new cholesterol treatment guidelines could cause patients to refuse to take statins. “I fear that the confusion is going to shake the public’s confidence in these lifesaving drugs,” Kevin Marzo, MD, chief of cardiology at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, NY, told HealthDay. “It is my hope that the guideline writers will revise the online calculator so that any deficiencies created will be quickly corrected.”

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