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SHAPE Task Force Invites Advocates and Critics of Recommended Heart Attack Prevention Guideline to Debate

CHICAGO, November 7, 2006 -- The SHAPE Screening for Heart Attack Prevention and Education Task Force has invited critics of its new guidelines for preventive cardiology the SHAPE Guidelines to a scientific debate during a satellite event held in conjunction with the upcoming annual scientific sessions of the American Heart Association 2006 in Chicago. The invitation follows the publication in July of the SHAPE Task Force report that recommended screening of apparently healthy at-risk men and women to detect and treat asymptomatic atherosclerosis, which underlies virtually all heart attacks and the majority of strokes.

The SHAPE Task Force, an international contingent of leading cardiologists and researchers organized by the Association for Eradication of Heart Attack, www.AEHA.org, calls for an overhaul of traditional medical practice related to heart attack prevention. The Task Force considers the existing guidelines, which rely on screening for traditional risk factors such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, to be grossly inaccurate, inefficient and outdated.

"Atherosclerosis is a disease that ought to be screened, detected, and treated," said Dr. Morteza Naghavi, chairman of the SHAPE Task Force. "It kills more people than any other ailment. Why don''t we have a national guideline for detection and treatment of asymptomatic atherosclerosis?"

The SHAPE Guidelines recommend screening for atherosclerosis beyond risk factors of atherosclerosis.

The SHAPE guideline calls for non-invasive screening of all asymptomatic men between ages 45 and 75 and women between ages 55 and 75 to assess their coronary plaque buildup or carotid wall thickness. Accurate assessments are considered essential for preventing heart attack and stroke, which account for more death and disability than all cancers combined. Next year, more than 500,000 Americans will have a first heart attack, almost all of which are expected to come from the SHAPE-eligible population. The SHAPE Task Force regards these individuals as asymptomatic vulnerable patients.

"Focusing only on risk factors of atherosclerosis is not sufficient, and in most cases misleads the physicians and patients about the risk of a near future heart attack" says Dr. Daniel Berman, Professor of Medicine at UCLA and Chief of Nuclear Cardiology at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles who is a member of the SHAPE Task Force. "We now have the tools to identify most of the high risk individuals who are vulnerable to heart attack"

The Task Force recommends novel standards for the careful and responsible implementation of cardiovascular imaging technologies as part of a comprehensive heart attack risk assessment and reduction strategy. While much of the world''s cardiology community enthusiastically welcomed the much needed change prompted by the SHAPE Guidelines, some were critical of the recommendation.

The organization invited the participation of representatives of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and other individuals and cardiovascular professional organizations to a scientific debate.

"The purpose of publishing the SHAPE Guidelines and the debate is to push this important issue onto the national agenda and get the healthcare community to seriously consider the need for change," said Dr. Harvey Hecht, director of Cardiovascular CT Imaging at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York who is a member of the SHAPE Task Force. "We hope to build on our momentum with as many scientific debates as needed by allowing an open discussion of the issues and concerns".

Meanwhile, the SHAPE Task Force is urging the United States government to reconsider its reimbursement policy for preventive cardiology and heart attack prevention. Most insurance programs and Medicare fail to cover SHAPE-recommended tests for detection of coronary and carotid atherosclerosis. The tests include coronary artery calcium score CACS measure by CT and carotid intima-media thickness CIMT and plaque measured by ultrasonography. As a result, these proven procedures remain out of financial reach of average Americans.

"The country''s existing cardiovascular healthcare is utterly dominated by use of expensive technologies to treat patients after they suffer a heart attack, which is too late and results in too little benefit to the patient," said Dr. Mathew Budoff, professor of medicine at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and a member of the SHAPE Task Force "We hope public and private payers will see the wisdom of reimbursement for the use of modern technologies that can prevent heart attacks."

A report by the SHAPE Task Force''s Cost Effectiveness Analysis Committee estimates that screening asymptomatic men and women could prevent more than 90,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease each year, and save approximately $21.5 billion annually by saving those at highest risk, most of whom are unaware of the danger they are facing.

The upcoming SHAPE Task Force event is the 11th of such meetings held under the Vulnerable Patient Satellite Symposium. It is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. November 13, 2006 at the Hyatt McCormick Hotel, Pullman Prairie Center in Chicago.

Funding for the event is provided by philanthropic donations and not supported by any companies. One of the major issues raised by the critiques was that the publication of the SHAPE Task Force report in American Journal of Cardiology was partially supported by Pfizer Inc. While it is customary for non-profit medical organizations to seek funding from pharmaceutical companies, the AEHA decided to not seek funding from pharmaceutical companies in order to prevent unjustified critiques.

About AEHA
Originated from the Texas Medical Center in Houston, the AEHA is a non-profit organization that promotes education and research related to mechanism, prevention, detection and treatment of heart attacks. The organization is committed to raising public awareness about recent revolutionary discoveries that opened exciting new avenues to prevent heart attack. The AEHA''s mission is to eradicate heart attacks before the end of the century. Additional information is available on the organization''s Web site at www.aeha.org.

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Author: Dan Keeney
Phone: (832) 467-2904
Fax: (832) 467-2909
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Website:www.aeha.org
Category: healthcare | Sub Category: cardiology