TUESDAY, Sept. 9, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs seem to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in children who have a genetic cholesterol disorder, according to a long-term European study.
Researchers looked at 194 children and teens in the Netherlands with familial hypercholesterolemia, which puts people at risk for premature hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). The inherited disorder affects about one in 500 people.
The youngsters were prescribed the statin drug pravastatin and followed for 10 years. The results showed that taking the drug prevented premature atherosclerosis, according to the research, which was done by Dr. D. Meeike Kusters, of the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, and colleagues.
The younger the age of those who start taking the drug, the better, noted the study, published in the Sept. 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In children with familial hypercholesterolemia, atherosclerosis progression begins before puberty, so guidelines recommend that they begin taking statins as young as age 8.
However, there had been no long-term data on the safety and effectiveness of starting on statins during childhood, the study authors noted.
One expert said the results should reassure doctors and patients alike.
"Early initiation of statins to children with familial hypercholesterolemia showed significant improvement...," said Dr. Shahed Querichi, director of pediatric cardiology at Staten Island University Hospital, in New York City. "And [the] safety of the statin therapy was well-established at a short-term duration. So, it is safe to initiate statin therapy in children with familial hypercholesterolemia and also among children who are high risk for premature atherosclerosis."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about familial hypercholesterolemia.
SOURCE: Shahed Querichi, M.D., director, pediatric cardiology, Staten Island University Hospital, New York City; Journal of the American Medical Association, news release, Sept. 9, 2014
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