High Cholesterol: Doctors Debate Whether Children Should Be Tested

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High cholesterol should be a concern for everyone, including children. However, following a government-appointed panel's recommendation that widespread screening be implemented for America's youth, some doctors believe such practices should be frowned upon. According to thoughts published in Pediatrics on Monday, critics of the program are speculating that the agressive guidelines set forth by the aforementioned panel have been influenced by the members' ties to drugmakers.

Are such tests being done simply to help drug manufacturers line their pockets? If you believe the critics, then the answer is yes. Eight of the 14 panel members have connections to certain companies within the medical industry. Although these individuals have stated the payments they received were used to cover the cost of evaluating certain medications, some doctors feel these ties are ultimately a conflict of interest.

Earlier this year, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article about the effects that cholesterol drugs may have on the children who take them. Such drugs, called statins, have been linked to a rare muscle condition in adults. Unless these young patients have severe issues that cannot be addressed outside of certain lifestyle changes, doctors do not recommend prescribing such medications to kids under the age of ten.

The guidelines recommended by the panel, which have been endorsed by the Academy of Pediatrics, state that blood tests should be administered to children as young as nine in order to properly screen for high cholesterol and future heart disease. Although the panel says treatment should begin with a change to the child's diet and exercise, they haven't completely ruled out the use of medication. According to reports, ten percent of children living in the United States currently have unhealthy cholesterol levels.

Dr. Susan Shurin, the acting director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, said her organization chose the panel members based on their expertise. She also added that finding a medical professional without ties to the industry is rather difficult. However, she assured the critics that these individuals are the best in the country.

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