Children who appear healthy, even if they have one or more recognized cardiovascular risk factors, do not generally have outcomes of cardiovascular or other vascular disease during childhood. Historically, pediatric medicine has not aggressively screened for or treated cardiovascular risk factors in otherwise healthy children. However, studies such as the P-Day Study (Pathobiological Determinants of Atherosclerosis in Youth), and the Bogalusa Heart Study, indicate that healthy children at remarkably young ages can have evidence of significant atherosclerosis. With the increasing prevalence of pediatric obesity, can we expect more health problems related to the consequences of pediatric dyslipidemia, hypertriglyceridemia, and atherosclerosis in the future? For many years, medications have been available and used in adult populations to treat dyslipidemia. In recent years, reports of short-term safety of some of these medications in children have been published. However, none of these studies have detailed long-term follow-up, and therefore none have described potential late side-effects of early cholesterol-lowering therapy, or potential benefits in terms of reduction of or delay in cardiovascular or other vascular end-points. In 2007, the American Heart Association published a scientific statement on the use of cholesterol-lowering therapy in pediatric patients. In this review paper, we discuss some of the current literature on cholesterol-lowering therapy in children, including the statins that are currently available for use in children, and some of the cautions with using these and other cholesterol-lowering medications. A central tenet of this review is that medications are not a substitute for dietary and lifestyle interventions, and that even in children on cholesterol-lowering medications, physicians should take every opportunity to encourage children and their parents to make healthy diet and lifestyle choices.
Keywords: adolescents; children; cholesterol; statins; vascular risk.