WEDNESDAY, Aug. 8, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Cholesterol-busting statin drugs may delay progressive artery damage in children with a hereditary condition called familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), which causes highly elevated levels of "bad" low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol beginning at birth.
In children with FH, high levels of LDL cholesterol lead to early thickening of the artery walls, premature cardiovascular disease (5 percent of patients by age 30, and 50 percent of patients by age 50), and an increased risk of early heart attack.
The Dutch study looked at data from 186 children, ages 8 to 18, who took the drug pravastatin (Pravachol) for between about two and seven years (an average of 4.5 years).
Writing in the Aug. 7 issue of Circulation, researchers found that earlier initiation of statin treatment resulted in a smaller thickening of the carotid artery wall -- a widely accepted marker for atherosclerosis.
"Our data support early initiation of statin therapy in FH children, which might yield a larger benefit in the prevention of atherosclerosis later in life. In our opinion, physicians should consider statin treatment of all FH children who are eight or older," senior author Barbara A. Hutten, assistant professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Amsterdam's Academic Medical Center, said in a prepared statement.
While statin treatment may be effective in children with FH, "each child will differ with respect to the family history, lipid profile, other risk factors, or lifestyle," co-author John J. P. Kastelein, professor and chair of vascular medicine, said in a prepared statement. "To decide whether or not to start treatment, physicians should balance benefit and risk based on the personal situation of each individual child," he said.
The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia has more about familial hypercholesterolemia.