Before issuing the new guidelines, the academy said cholesterol-lowering medications should be considered for children older than 10, if they were unable to lose weight after one year of trying.
Some 30 percent to 60 percent of U.S. kids with high cholesterol are falling through the cracks, being neither diagnosed nor treated.
Shelov, who was not involved in drafting the recommendations, said he isn't overly concerned about giving statins to children. Side effects are rare, and the benefits of the drugs make them worth the risk, he said.
"The levels of obesity we are seeing and the unsafe level of cholesterol now in our teenagers -- even down as young as our fourth- and fifth-graders -- this recommendation appears to be well thought out," he said.
Shelov admitted that very little is known about the risks and benefits of using cholesterol-lowering drugs like statins in a large pediatric population.
Potentially, millions of children could be placed on cholesterol-lowering drugs, he said. "At the same time, there needs to be a systematic look at the effects of these medications on children, because they do have side effects," he added.
"If we are going to go ahead and do this, we're going to need guidelines on exactly who would warrant the therapy and careful measurement of any side effects," Shelov said.
It's possible that many children who start taking statins would not be on them for life. Changes in diet and exercise could have some children off the drugs in a relatively short time, Shelov said.
For more on the dangers of cholesterol, visit the American Heart Association.
SOURCES: Steven P. Shelov, M.D., chairman of pediatrics, Maimonide
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