Excessive Cholesterol Testing

In the US, recommendations states that individuals who have heart disease ought to go for regular cholesterol checks every four to six months. However, the findings from a recent study that suggest that excessive tests are carried out have raised some debates as to whether this is suitable.

The study, which was recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine followed a total of 28 000 patients who were taking statins for a period of eleven months. The key findings indicated that doctors had ordered repeat tests for a third of the patients that took part. However, their medication had not been increased. What appeared to spark the debate was the fact that each of these tests cost $16, meaning a total cost of $204 000 for the participating hospitals.

Although we can understand the need for keeping costs down, and the ethical concerns of subjecting patients to unnecessary tests in general, we do not feel as if the current findings warrant the discussion of whether or not these tests are useful.

The reason individuals get tested is to see whether anything has changed in their health. It is likely that the clinicians treating those participants picked up on something that warranted a test. After all, the tests were not given out indiscriminately to all participants but to one third of the participants. It is also likely that when the test refuted their assumptions the clinicians did not increase the medication. However, the important part is that the clinicians investigated whether further action needed to be taken- which is the purpose of the check ups that are set out in the guidelines.

As such, the current debates have failed to convince us why the guidelines should be challenged.

Here is more information on cholesterol: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cholesterol/Pages/Introduction.aspx