Monday, July 28, 2008

Alarming article on the increase of obesity-related medications for children

I read this article in the NY Times as well as my local paper about the increase of prescription obesity-related medications for children and was quite alarmed. These were medications for high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, acid reflux, and high blood pressure being given to children as young as 6 years of age! After one 13 year old girl visited her doctor for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar, she went home with five different medications. Gosh, how scary is that?

One of the biggest problems I see with this besides the fact that our society and insurance companies continue to push a "quick fix" approach to solving health ailments is the fact that not enough information is out there on the effects of these drugs on children. Any prescription medication for an adult is going to be different for a child.. You can't just halve a medication and give that dosage to a child. It is never a one size fits all approach.The fact that there are no real long term studies worries me (or at least none that I've seen). These children could have some major health issues from being on these types of drugs (not that they should be on them anyway) in the future. And some physicians proclaim that children who start them early in life will wind up having to rely on them in the future.

The phamaceutical companies are also jumping on this bandwagon with developing new flavors and liquid forms for these medications.

The other issue I see is the pressure physicians feel to do something about the problem. Some physicians say they have recommended exercise and diet and only turn to medications as a last resort. Some of them also say that changing the child's lifestyle is difficult depending on their location (low income, no grocery store locales) and lack of physical education in the school system, so they have to turn to pharmacotherapy.

I think this article is a good case in point about just how far the whole idea of obesity among our children has gotten a bit out of control in my opinion. It's also indicative of how so many, including parents and doctors alike, seem hurried into the "here and now" that they're not even questioning what they are doing. I think the "here and now" approach is relevant to many things, but in terms of medications, a lot can happen in the future. It's important that we think about these consequences, because otherwise, then the whole idea of "saving" on healthcare will wind up just the opposite anyway with having to undo the mistake that have been made in the sake of "saving" these children from obesity-related problems.

I don't know the solutions to all these problems, but I don't believe it's about pill popping.

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