The short road from screening to drugging
Late last year, new guidelines for cholesterol screening for children were sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Previously, testing was recommended only for kids considered high risk. But not anymore. The guidelines recommend that all children be screened at least once between the ages of 9 and 11, and again when they’re between 17 and 21.
They also suggest targeted screening of 30 to 40 percent of kids between 2 and 8 with two fasting lipid profiles (that’s a big undertaking for such a large number of young kids).
Bet, you can see where this is going. It smacks of another attempt to open up a whole new target market for statin drugs…kids.
The reason I’m writing about this now is because at first the guidelines just sort of slipped in under the radar. But now people are taking notice, and it’s causing quite a stir among experts who say the guidelines are overly aggressive and may have been influenced by panel members’ ties to Big Pharma.
Gee, you think so?
Eight of the 14 panel members have ties to Big Pharma companies that sell or are working on cholesterol medications. Critics are now calling for re-evaluation of the guidelines by experts without Big Pharma connections.
An essay published last week in the online version of the journal Pediatrics challenges the guidelines, saying there just isn’t enough evidence that testing and treating children will actually reduce their risk of later heart problems. In fact, no attempt was made to figure out exactly what benefits could come from diagnosing young children with high cholesterol.
The authors also argue that the testing would be too costly…we’re talking billions.
And then there’s the fasting. Can you imagine dragging a hungry 4-year-old kid to the doctor’s office to get poked with needles—twice?
Supporters say the new recommendations are important in the face of the growing obesity problem in the United States. But is that really the case? As one former member of an FDA pediatrics advisory committee put it, “You don’t need a blood test to tell who needs to lose weight.”
And I’m not the only one who thinks this is just a thinly veiled attempt to widen the statin net . The authors of the essay in Pediatrics also said that they worry that this major change in screening guidelines could turn millions of healthy children into cholesterol patients.
Another essay, this one in the Journal of the American Medical Association, echoes those same concerns. In it the authors point out that there hasn’t been any real attempt to figure out the long-term risks and benefits of putting a nine-year-old on the path to lifelong statin use.
Let’s face it, these guidelines aren’t based on any kind of scientific evidence. Instead, they’re built on the opinions of “experts” who are firmly tied to Big Pharma. And this time it’s the kids who suffer.
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“Should All Kids Be Screened For Cholesterol?,” Pharmalot (pharmalot.com)
“New Lipid Screening Guidelines for Children Overly Aggressive,” Newswise (newswise.com)
“Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents,” National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (nhlbi.nih.gov)