More than 11 million Americans may have received incorrect prescriptions for aspirin, statins and blood pressure medications to prevent a heart attack or stroke, according to a study by the Stanford University School of Medicine.
That's because the tool used to estimate a patient's risk of heart attack or stroke is based on outdated data, apparently off by as much as 20 percent, according to the study, published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicine.
"A lot has changed in terms of diets, environments and medical treatment since the 1940s,” senior author Dr. Sanjay Basu said in the press release that accompanied the study. “So, relying on our grandparents’ data to make our treatment choices is probably not the best idea.”
The problem was discovered when some doctors, including Basu, kept noticing that the current tool was failing to accurately predict risk in their patients, particularly if they were African American.
Because the calculator was built on older studies that lacked a sufficient sample of African-Americans, doctors may have in fact been underestimating the risks of heart attacks or strokes in those patients.