A new study shows more local children are on medications for Type II diabetes, asthma, coronary disease and gastrointestinal diseases than ever before.
Medco Health Solutions found that throughout Cook County and the city of Chicago, the prevalence of children ages 0-19 receiving diabetes therapy increased 11.8 percent, and those medicated for asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease jumped nearly 30 percent among the same age group between 2006-2007. About 1.2 million children in the United States are being treated for conditions typically labeled adult problems.
"One quarter of the kids in this country already have Type II diabetes, now 60 percent have at least one risk factor for coronary disease. That’s a troubling statistic," says Dr. Lon Castle, senior director of personalized medicine for Medco. "When I was in practice, you never saw this in kids. If you’re seeing Type II in children, that is a marker for a much bigger problem and that is obesity."
Medco experts who prepared the study surmise that the increase in gastrointestinal problems such as heartburn is also probably related to obesity, but they may be compounded by today’s lifestyle. "They’re running from here to there, to ballet and soccer, so you’re putting a lot of stress on kids," Castle says.
Most of the medications being prescribed to today’s children were originally manufactured for use by adults. "I don’t think anyone envisioned them being given to so many kids," Castle says. "Most of these have an excellent safety profile in adults, so there’s no reason to believe there will be a problem for children, but it’s something we will keep an eye on."
Parents should know, though, that lifestyle changes can alter the future. "If kids are on medication for Type II diabetes, plenty of studies have shown, if you get patients to lose weight, exercise and eat right, you can get them off their diabetes medication," Castle says. "This is not a life sentence, but it certainly is a wake up call. It’s a good chance for parents to reshape their child’s behavior to help them be healthy adults."