Doctors Debate Necessity of High Cholesterol Tests For Kids

John Stegeman - Author

Jul. 28 2013, Updated 7:35 a.m. ET

With childhood obesity on the rise in America, children should be screened for high cholesterol. So say recent guidelines written by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and published in the journal Pediatrics last fall. Those findings have come under fire from some doctors.

In the current issue of Pediatrics, Health Day reports, the dissenting doctors say the guidelines are too aggressive, and not based on enough evidence.

If the guidelines were followed, argued Dr. Thomas Newman, too many children could end up taking a medication for life, and the effects of that are unknown. One estimate suggested one percent of all children would be given medication for high cholesterol.

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“(We don’t know) how many children would need to be treated to prevent one heart disease death,” Newman told Health Day. “The medications would have to be extraordinarily safe, and there haven’t been big studies with large enough numbers of children for long enough to know.”

Others are concerned that eight of the 14 members of the panel that came up with the guidelines, which suggests that high-risk 2- to 8-year-olds and 12- to 16-year-olds be screened, had ties to drug makers, possibly influencing their recommendations.

Dr. Susan Shurin, acting director of The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, said that industry ties are inevitable, and that those making the recommendations were of the highest quality.

“We got the best people in the country to do this,” Shurin told the Associated Press.

The debate boils down to whether the time and resources it takes to test, coupled with the possible medications that could be prescribed to juveniles, will do enough to help stave off heart disease and other high cholesterol related conditions. For now, there doesn’t appear to be a clear answer.


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