Statin warning for pregnant women

December 9, 2008

Pregnant women or those hoping to start or extend a family should avoid using the cholesterol-lowering drugs statins, say scientists.

Current clinical guidelines already recommend that women who are pregnant should stop taking statins but the advice is based on the knowledge that cholesterol is essential for normal fetal development.

Indeed, a 2007 study examining the risk of congenital anomalies in children of pregnant women using statins suggested that the detrimental effects of the drugs may be restricted to fat-soluble or 'lipophilic' statins only.

But new research from The University of Manchester has shown that even water-soluble or 'hydrophilic' statins, such as pravastatin, can affect placental development leading to worse pregnancy outcomes.

"The rapid rise in obesity and type-2 diabetes is a major health issue and affected individuals are often treated with statins to lower circulating cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease," said Dr Melissa Westwood, a Senior Lecturer in Endocrinology based at the Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre at St Mary's Hospital, Manchester.

"Given the evolving demographic profile of these conditions, such drugs are increasingly prescribed to women of reproductive age but the actions of statins are not limited to the regulation of cholesterol levels, as they can affect the production of other chemicals in the body too.

"Our study examined the effects that both lipophilic and hydrophilic statins had on a key biological system that is crucial for maintaining the normal function of the placenta, which acts as the nutrient-waste exchange barrier between mother and fetus."

The research, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), used a placental-tissue model that could be maintained in a viable state outside the body for several days and tested the effects of two different statins – one water-soluble and one that dissolves in fat.

As expected, the fat-soluble statin, cerivastatin, affected the placenta resulting in reduced growth but the researchers also found that pravastatin – the water-soluble statin thought to be potentially compatible for use in pregnancy – had the same detrimental effect.

"These results clearly show that the effect of statins on the placenta is not dependent on their lipophilicity as had previously been suggested," said Dr Westwood, whose findings are published in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

"While hydrophilic statins have not been reported to increase the incidence of fetal malformations, our research suggests that they will have a detrimental effect on placental growth, which is likely to result in poor pregnancy outcome.

"Healthcare professionals should continue to advise women to avoid the use of any type of statin once they plan to start a family or when a pregnancy is suspected or confirmed."

Source: University of Manchester

Explore further: What has science ever done for us?

Related Stories

What has science ever done for us?

September 1, 2015

The deadbeat boyfriend at the centre of Janet Jackson's 1986 hit What Have You Done For Me Lately used to take Janet out to dinner almost every night. He used to do a lot of nice stuff for her. But – as the title asks – ...

Statins did not reduce colorectal cancer in WHI analysis

November 8, 2010

The use of statins among a group of postmenopausal women did not reduce the risk for colorectal cancer, according to the results of a prospective analysis of data from the large population-based Women's Health Initiative ...

Targeting cancer's 'queen bees' with better tissue modeling

October 28, 2013

In many types of cancer, standard chemotherapy cures only a fraction of patients. Treatments are often too toxic to normal cells and they fail to selectively kill cancer's stem cells, which can survive treatment and, like ...

A tiny, time-released treatment

October 9, 2013

Omid Farokhzad's vision of medicine's future sounds a lot like science fiction. He sees medicine scaled down, with vanishingly small nanoparticles playing a big role, delivering drug doses measured in molecules directly to ...

The future of breast cancer prevention

March 31, 2011

Drugs could be used to prevent breast cancer in women at high risk of the disease in the same way that statins are used for heart disease if trials looking at ways of predicting risk are successful, according to an international ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Machine Translates Thoughts into Speech in Real Time

December 21, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.