Parents should think twice before starting children on statin drugs to lower cholesterol, according to a new report on children and statins from Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs. That's because the powerful drugs have not been extensively tested in children, and they can have serious side effects, especially muscle pain. Instead, parents should consider the two best ways to lower cholesterol without drugs: more exercise, and a healthy diet.
"With children, you're talking about many decades of potential exposure to the drugs," Santa says. He points out that children metabolize drugs very differently than parents, so it's impossible to presume that the drugs' safety and effectiveness would be the same for them. Indeed, statins haven't been tested in children long term for safety or effectiveness, and taking statins is usually considered a lifetime affair. With a new statin drug, Livalo, about to be introduced, expect a barrage of advertisements directed at doctors and parents. "Let's curb our enthusiasm here and be a little careful," Santa says.
If your child has high LDL cholesterol, generally considered 130 mg/dL or greater, talk with your pediatrician about options, and don't go in demanding drugs, Santa suggests. "Ask about the risks and benefits. A careful parent who reads both sides, I think, will have good questions for their physician."