Saturday, November 12, 2011

Panel Urges Testing Kid's Cholesterol - You've Got To Be Kidding!

Protecting our kids or another excuse to make $$ ?

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I was going to spend my day happily creating more Thanksgiving recipes until I read the article on cholesterol testing for children. I already heard about it on the news but seeing it in print this morning just reignited my disgust.
In case you haven't heard, new guidelines issued by an "expert panel" appointed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommend that EVERY child should be tested for high cholesterol between the ages of 9 and 11. The American Academy of Pediatrics also endorsed it. I ask myself, "just how many free trips to Hawaii can Pfizer afford to give away?"
Ironically, many experts feel that testing C-reactive protein, not cholesterol, is a better way to predict future cardiovascular disease.

Well Rehearsed Talking Points
And all the doctors have rehearsed the talking points:
* Knowing a child's cholesterol level could be helpful. 
(What would be even MORE helpful would be to ask them about their diet and how much time they spend exercising!). 
* The reason for testing everyone is that targeted screening doesn't work. 
(What they really mean is that "targeted screening" doesn't bring in as much money as testing every child in America and writing additional statin prescriptions!)
* High cholesterol in children would be addressed with diet and exercise. 
(Really? Is that why tens of millions of people take statins today? If so many doctors have given up on telling adults to diet and exercise, why would they prescribe that for their children?)
* Less than 1% of children would end up taking statins. 
(Do you believe this? If a child is tested for something, you can bet they will be treated.)

About the Panel
According to the Associated Press, "several doctors on the guideline panel have received consulting fees or have had other financial ties to makers of cholesterol medications". Not a surprise, I'm sad to say. How these self serving and unethical practices continue to be tolerated is beyond me. 

Who Stands to Gain?
Besides the obvious winners, the pharmaceutical companies who will no doubt be selling statins to a new group of young clients for many decades, there's a ton of money to be made on the tests themselves. A lab test screening for cholesterol costs around $80 and if they test for triglycerides, that's another $30 to $50. Multiply that by every 9 year old child in America, and we're talking serious money.
But at the end of the day, we will be footing the bill for this unnecessary protocol. The insurance companies will have to reimburse for this (since it's now "officially" a guideline) and our insurance premiums will no doubt go even higher!

The Risks
Once a person takes statins, they rarely get off of them. So if someone begins this regimen as a child, they have many years of taking this powerful medication ahead of them. There are serious concerns about what risks a person faces with decades of statin use. The risks associated with the statin, Lipitor, are not something I would ever want to subject my children to!

The Possible Side Effects of the statin, LIPITOR, Listed on the Pfizer Website: 
These serious side effects include:
Muscle problems. LIPITOR can cause serious muscle problems that can lead to kidney problems, including kidney failure. You have a higher chance for muscle problems if you are taking certain other medicines with LIPITOR.
Liver problems. LIPITOR can cause liver problems. Your doctor may do blood tests to check your liver before you start taking LIPITOR, and while you take it.
Call your doctor right away if:
You have muscle problems like weakness, tenderness, or pain that happen without a good reason, especially if you also have a fever or feel more tired than usual
You have allergic reactions including swelling of the face, lips, tongue, and/or throat that may cause difficulty in breathing or swallowing, which may require treatment right away
You experience nausea and vomiting
You pass brown or dark-colored urine
You feel more tired than usual
Your skin and whites of your eyes get yellow
You have stomach pain
You have an allergic skin reaction
In clinical studies, patients reported the following common side effects while taking LIPITOR:
Diarrhea, Upset stomach,Muscle and joint pain
The following additional side effects have been reported with LIPITOR:
Tiredness and Tendon problems
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have side effects that bother you or that will not go away. These are not all the side effects of LIPITOR. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for a complete list. (OMG, this isn't a complete list!) Do you REALLY want to expose your child to this? 

How to Really Protect the Children
If the medical community really wants to prevent children from a future of cardiovascular disease, here are some things they can do:
* Spend more time training doctors about nutrition and have them ask about children's diet and exercise level during visits.
* If a child is overweight, have a serious discussion with the parents to encourage them to provide adequate nutrition and encouragement for a better lifestyle.
* Instead of spending $80 on cholesterol screening, refer the patient to a counseling session with a nutritionist. 
* If any tests should be given, it should be vitamin panel to check for 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels and other vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
* Encourage the schools to provide a more healthful school lunch and exercise programs. An "expert panel" from the medical community with a useful recommendation like that would go a long way. 

OK, now that I've got that off my chest, I'm going off to develop some yummy and healthy Thanksgiving recipes for you!

1 comment:

Christine Gallagher said...

Amen!!! Thanks for writing this! I've been seething around here ever since I saw that recommendation. Crazy!