Can you believe it? Cholesterol-lowering drugs for 8-year olds? Thanks go to the American Academy of Pediatrics (A.A.P.) who included in this pronouncement July 7, on lipid screening for infants and children “…For children who are more than eight years old and who have high LDL concentrations, cholesterol-reducing medications should be considered.” The idea is to give statin drugs early in life to children with elevated lipids-screening begins as early as “age 2, but no later than age 10,”-presumably to prevent heart attacks 30-60 years later. This assumes there is evidence these drugs when taken for decades actually helps prevent coronary disease.
Yet we have no idea even today what happens when people take statins for more than the 15-20 years, (since the onset of the statin “revolution.”) We do know some patients on these drugs-numbers continue to be hotly disputed-can suffer one or more of the following serious side effects, including, but not limited to: liver function abnormalities, memory loss and cognitive impairment, serious, even fatal muscle disease, an increase in cancer incidence, and a host of other problems, many of which are related to length of therapy.
A few doctors have applauded this stunning idea of the A.A.P., many others are shocked. “To be frank, I’m embarrassed for the A.A.P. today” said one academic authority, Dr. Lawrence Rosen. “Treatment with medications in the absence of any clear data? I hope they’re ready for the public backlash.” Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, a pediatric cardiologist and Professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, quoted in the New York Times, remarked, “How many heart attacks do we hope to prevent this way?”
Physicians who sat on the Academy’s committee on nutrition which issued the guidelines, admit there are no long-term data on statin use, but claim without citing evidence, there are adequate safety data to justify their recommendations. Safety data for 10, 30, or 50 years? Incidentally, the report’s lead author, Dr. Stephen Daniels, told The Associated Press that he had worked as a consultant to Abbott Laboratories, and Merck, but not on their cholesterol drugs. He was not available for comment when the study was released.
In the meantime, the Food and Drug Administration has already approved the use of the statin, Prevachol, for use in children as young as 8. One of the most serious problems may be opening the door for pharmaceutical advertising. I can see it now on Sesame Street, Nickelodeon, and the Disney channel, if not Desperate Housewives: “Tell your mom to have your cholesterol checked.”