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

that 8 is the youngest age for which statin treatment has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It's also the age when the arteries begin to suffer from aggressive buildup of plaque, a process called atherosclerosis.

"In that pre-pubescent to early pubescent stage, the process becomes more aggressive," Daniels said. "By the late teenage years or early 20s, there can be advanced plaques that are of concern. The thought is if we could intervene early, their ultimate experience with heart attacks later in life will be more favorable."

Research has found that statin therapy can have very positive long-term health benefits for some children.

"Most of the data we have now has shown statins are very effective in lowering cholesterol and as effective and safe in adolescents as they are in adults," Daniels said. "The most recent studies have shown statins can not only lower cholesterol but can improve certain measures of vascular structure and function associated with atherosclerosis in adults."

The side effects caused by statins -- elevation of liver enzymes, problems with muscle inflammation -- "can be monitored with lab tests," Daniels said.

However, if doctors stuck rigidly to the health organizations' recommendations, it appears that not many children would be given statins.

Less than 1 percent of American adolescents aged 12 to 17 years meet the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for receiving statin treatment, according to a review of health data published this year in the journal Circulation by Dr. Earl S. Ford, a medical officer with the U.S. Public Health Service in Atlanta. That's about 200,000 kids total.

But Margolis is concerned that many more children than that will be put on statin treatment by doctors who are not strictly following the guidelines. If that happens, families will find themselves paying potentially large amounts of money for drugs and follow-up
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