Should Children Get Cholesterol Tests?
Should children get cholesterol tests? A government-appointed panel recommended so several months ago, but many doctors are still debating the question. Researchers published more criticism of the recommendation on Monday in the journal Pediatrics, saying the guidelines are too aggressive and are motivated by the panel's financial ties to drug companies.
Of the 14 panel members, eight disclosed having ties to drugmakers. In a rebuttal article, also published in Pediatrics, the panel contends that their ties did not influence the decision at all. Critics, however, disagree.
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"[The ties] undermines the credibility of both the guidelines and the process through which they were produced," the critics, Dr. Thomas Newman, a researcher and former member of a Food and Drug Administration pediatrics advisory committee and Drs. Mark Pletcher and Stephen Hulley, heart disease researchers, wrote in their paper.
The guidelines recommend that all children should get blood tests to screen for high cholesterol beginning at age 9. Children with high cholesterol would receive cholesterol lowering medication, called statins.
Not all doctors are against the guidelines, however. Dr. Sarah De Ferranti, an American Academy of Pediatrics spokeswoman and director of preventive cardiology at Boston Children's Hospital, told NBC News that the screening should be part of a conversation between parents and doctors about heart disease, weight and blood pressure.
"Almost all of us could do better in that area," she said. "My kids are about to turn 9 and I'm going to have them screened."
She also said financial ties to drug companies are commonplace, and do not have any implications on the recommendations.
"The problem is the people who care about this issue are doing research on it and there's no way to get research done without some involvement of industry," she said.
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