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Giving Statins to Kids Provokes Debate
Date:7/26/2009

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may help young hearts, but long-term use raises concerns

SUNDAY, July 26 (HealthDay News) -- Whether cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins should be given to children apparently depends on who you ask.

Major health associations in the United States have recommended that obese children as young as 8 years old be treated with statins if diet and lifestyle changes don't improve their health.

But the guidelines, issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Heart Association, have sparked debate in the medical community.

Some see statin therapy as essential in combating a public health symptom of the obesity epidemic. Others believe that treating children with cholesterol-lowering drugs is a costly measure with possible long-term consequences that aren't fully understood.

"What I'm afraid of is that someone will have a modest elevation in cholesterol at age 8 without a bad family history, and an overzealous doctor will say, 'You need to be on a statin,'" said Dr. Simeon Margolis, professor of medicine and biological chemistry at Johns Hopkins University. "That means this child will be taking a statin for 60 years or more."

Obesity in adolescents has become a major health concern in the United States, with medical experts predicting potentially overwhelming levels of diabetes and heart disease as overweight children mature into adults.

Statins work by inhibiting the body's production of cholesterol while also promoting the ability to clear "bad" (LDL) cholesterol from the bloodstream.

"The consensus is that, for children with very high levels of LDL cholesterol at age 8 or older, physicians should consider statins if lifestyle and diet intervention have not been successful," said Dr. Stephen R. Daniels, chairman of pediatrics at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine and Children's Hospital in Denver.

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