July 11, 2008

Recommendation of Statins to Children Sparks Controversy

The American Academy of Pediatricians's recommendation of statins for warding off cardiac diseases in children has sparked an industry wide debate globally, according to the New York Times.

According to the new guidelines children as young as eight with LDL, or 'bad', cholesterol of 190mg per deciliter, or those with LDL of 160mg and a family history of heart disease or two other risk factors can be given statins. The academy also recommended that children with a family history of heart disease be screened as early as the age of two and no later than the age of 10.

Statins, said to be the most prescribed drugs in the world, are used for lowering risk for heart attack and death in middle-aged men with existing heart disease. However, there is little evidence to show whether giving statins to a child will lower his or her risk for heart attack in middle-age.

The side effects of statin usage, particularly muscle pain and cognitive problems, are commonly noticed in adults. But, the doctors are unclear whether children will experience similar problems.

Also, the doctors are more concerned about the recommendation that low-fat milk products are appropriate to give to children after the age of 12 months. This is contradictory to previous belief that fat is essential to brain development in infants.

Healthcare experts also contend that the new guidelines may lead to too much reliance on drug therapy rather than the more difficult lifestyle changes.

The New York Times quoted Alan Greene, a pediatrician in Danville, California, as saying: "It will open the door for pharmaceutical companies to heavily advertise and promote their use in eight year-olds, when we don't know yet the long-term effect on using these drugs on prepubertal kids."