By Dr. Janet Brill

Q: There’s been talk about prescribing cholesterol drugs to children. What are your thoughts on this?

A: Pediatricians are concerned with the rise of childhood obesity in our nation, as well as the fact that high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure–all major risk factors for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S–are increasingly diagnosed in obese children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has just revised its guidelines for cholesterol screening and treatment in our nation’s children. These guidelines take a more aggressive stance regarding prescription drug treatment, with the newest recommendation dropping the age of consideration for drug treatment from “older than 10” to as young as 8.

Is it wise to prescribe medication to our children to fix what used to be considered purely an adult problem? And will statin medication taken in childhood truly lower our kids’ risk of contracting early heart disease as adults?

While I agree with the push to both increase detection of high cholesterol levels in children and, more specifically, with taking aggressive action to control this major risk factor for heart disease, I question the wisdom of freely placing children as young as 8 years old on prescription statin medication to solve this problem. Isn’t this strategy almost like taking a “Band-Aid” approach?

First and foremost, we as a nation of parents must change the environment of poor nutrition and lack of physical activity that lead to obesity and high cholesterol levels in our kids. Prevention is the best strategy! That said, I believe that prescription medication should be reserved only for those children who have been aggressively treated with lifestyle changes for a long period of time and have not responded favorably.

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