Chewable Lipitor – Pfizer Targeting Kids with Cholesterol

Lipitor, Pfizer’s blockbuster cholesterol-lowering statin medication, has been approved for use in children with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia in the US since 2002, according to Pharmafile. (FH is an “inherited disorder that leads to aggressive and premature cardiovascular disease”). And those with FH are likely in great need of Lipitor.

But FH is a pretty rare disease.  And Pfizer’s putting a lot of effort into chewable Lipitor.

Why?

Is Pfizer is positioning itself to profit – at the expense of children – by inducing pediatricians to more broadly prescribe Lipitor for children?

Perhaps.  And that is very distressing.

Pfizer gained approval in the EU to market a grape-flavored, lower-dose, chewable form of Lipitor — in exchange for patent extension of regular Lipitor (read, short-term profit). Indeed, according to Andrew Jack of the Financial Times,

“Pfizer could earn $800m after European Union countries extended exclusive rights to sell its top-selling drug Lipitor until summer next year, in exchange for tests that will provide a slightly modified form of the medicine to just a few thousand children.”

So Pfizer used the EU’s controversial pediatric regulations, “which were introduced in 2007 with the offer of extended exclusivity as a financial incentive to encourage drug companies to ensure they expanded testing of experimental medicines to include children,” for short-term financial gain.

Typical big pharma move. Totally legal. Much debate about ethics.

More worrisome is what could come down the road.

For there is potential for Pfizer to use the same agressive marketing tactics they have employed to induce over-medication of adult Americans with high cholesterol and no other heart disease risk factors…now with KIDS.

Of course, for those with FH who have a serious need for a statin to reduce cholesterol, that a chewable, grape-flavored version of Lipitor is available in the EU is good news.

But if chewable Lipitor for kids gets approved in the US, who will make sure that Pfizer won’t repeat the marketing strategy that’s been so successful with adults? Who will make sure they don’t resort to scare tactics to convince people – parents of KIDS with high cholesterol — that Lipitor is indicated when it perhaps is not?

Let’s hope if chewable Lipitor ever arrives in the US (and if it stays in the EU) that it’s limited to those who really need it – those with FH.  And that Pfizer will not look to profit on the backs of children who have high cholesterol but no other risk factors.

For more information on the risks and guidelines for cholesterol for children, see my recently published article on Answers.com, High Cholesterol in Children.

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Coffee – The good, the bad and the cholesterol-ugly

Back in December 2011 I wrote a post, ‘Cholesterol-y Coffee,’ about the sad, sad fact that drinking unfiltered coffee has been shown to raise cholesterol. Specifically LDL (bad) cholesterol. As there have been recent updates on this topic (see my The Cholesterol-Coffee Connection article on Answers.com) I thought it was a good time for a Going Lo-Co coffee-cholesterol update.

First, some good news. A 2008 study published by the Harvard School of Public Health stated, “Drinking up to six cups a day of coffee is not associated with increased risk of death from any cause, or death from cancer or cardiovascular disease.”

Yay.

And it gets better: Catherine Pearson recently reported on The Huffington Post, “Researchers from Harvard University found that women who consumed two to three cups of caffeinated joe per day had a 15 percent lower risk of depression than non-coffee drinkers, while those who drank four-plus cups daily had a 20 percent lower risk.”

Indeed, there’s a surprisingly long list of potential health benefits from a daily dose of coffee. In the January 2012 Harvard Health Letter, the article “What Is It About Coffee” lists seven – count ’em 7 — diseases that regular coffee drinking helps minimize. It also has a cool chart of how much caffeine is in tea vs Starbucks drinks (a perennial argument in my house). I highly recommend checking out this online Harvard Health article, it is well written and very informative.

All that said… there is STILL a problem for high cholesterol sufferers who drink unfiltered coffee. As Harvard’s Dr. van Dam explains, unfiltered coffee raises cholesterol:

“Coffee contains a substance called cafestol that is a potent stimulator of LDL cholesterol levels. Cafestolis found in the oily fraction of coffee, and when you brew coffee with a paper filter, the cafestol gets left behind in the filter. Other methods of coffee preparation, such as the boiled coffee common in Scandinavian countries, French press coffee, or Turkish coffee, are much higher in cafestol. So for people who have high cholesterol levels or who want to prevent having high cholesterol levels, it is better to choose paper filtered coffee or instant coffee, since they have much lower levels of cafestol than boiled or French press coffee.Espresso is somewhere in the middle; it has less cafestol than boiled or French press coffee, but more than paper filtered coffee.”

ChemexSo if you have high cholesterol and love your jolt of joe, make sure you’re drinking filtered coffee — either a classic American coffee pot with a filter or a single-serve Keurig machine or other single-serving coffee pod (the tiny pods have tiny filters inside -see my prior post for a photo!).  Or you could try the gorgeous Chemex pot my friend Jill recommended.  But you should toss the French press… and, sadly, minimize espresso drinks.

As for me, I think I need to switch to caffeinated coffee; that caffeine can help lower depression risk in women is startling, welcome news indeed.

Oh, and one more thing. I think I need to acquire this gorgeous Chemex coffee pot even though I love my Keurig machine.

Because you can’t have too many kitchen gadgets, right?

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