Statins less dangerous than thought for liver patients

Nov 24, 2010

Long-term use of statins, a drug widely prescribed to prevent artery-blocking cholesterol, is less risky than thought for patients with a common form of liver disease, according to a study published on Wednesday by The Lancet.

Statins work by blocking a liver enzyme that makes fatty molecules which line arterial walls and boost the danger of heart disease and strokes.

Doctors commonly choose not to prescribe these drugs to people with high levels of a type of liver enzyme which is often a telltale of non-alcoholic , or NAFLD.

Few studies have until now been carried out into the benefits or risks of this policy, and the probes have been small and short-term.

In the biggest and longest investigation of its kind, doctors in Greece enrolled 437 patients who had abnormal liver function tests and were believed to have NAFLD.

Of these, 227 of whom were treated with a statin, while the others were not treated.

Over the three-year duration of the study, 10 percent of patients in the statin group had a heart attack or a stroke, while in the non-statin group, this was 20 percent. The benefit for the statin group was a relative risk reduction of more than two-thirds.

Bouts of liver-related sickness were equal in both groups, indicating no adverse affects on the liver from taking .

The study was led by Vasilis Athyros from the Hippokration University Hospital in Thessaloniki, Greece and Dimitri Mikhailidis from University College London, London.

Commenting on the study, Ted Bader from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center said the findings demonstrated emphatically that many patients with liver disease had been wrongly denied statins for for too long.

"Most physicians believe that statins cause liver disease because of the language of package inserts. Drug companies should be encouraged to request the deletion of this point from the insert," he said.

Statins have been dubbed "the aspirin of the 21st century" for their perceived benefits in cardiovascular health and relatively few side effects. Worldwide sales total more than 20 billion dollars annually.

A study published last week cautioned against over-prescribing, saying that among healthy adults, only those with measurable buildup of artery-hardening calcium would significantly benefit.

The six-year study found that 75 percent of all heart attacks, strokes or heart-related deaths occurred in the 25 percent of participants who had the highest calcium buildup in their blood vessels.

The 47 percent of participants who had no detectable levels of calcium buildup meanwhile suffered just five percent of heart disease-related events, meaning the therapy would have offered little protection.

Explore further: Missing protein restored in patients with muscular dystrophy

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Statins may worsen symptoms in some cardiac patients

Nov 03, 2009

Although statins are widely used to prevent heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular disorders, new research shows that the class of drugs may actually have negative effects on some cardiac patients. A new study presented ...

Statin cuts heart problems after artery surgery

Sep 02, 2009

(AP) -- Score another victory for the cheap, cholesterol-lowering wonder drugs known as statins. People getting an artery unclogged or repaired were much less likely to die or have a heart attack afterward if they took preventive ...

Recommended for you

Student seeks to improve pneumonia vaccines

19 hours ago

Almost a million Americans fall ill with pneumonia each year. Nearly half of these cases require hospitalization, and 5-7 percent are fatal. Current vaccines provide protection against some strains of the ...

Seabed solution for cold sores

20 hours ago

The blue blood of abalone, a seabed delicacy could be used to combat common cold sores and related herpes virus following breakthrough research at the University of Sydney.

Better living through mitochondrial derived vesicles

Aug 19, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—As principal transformers of bacteria, organelles, synapses, and cells, vesicles might be said to be the stuff of life. One need look no further than the rapid rise to prominence of The ...

Zebrafish help to unravel Alzheimer's disease

Aug 19, 2014

New fundamental knowledge about the regulation of stem cells in the nerve tissue of zebrafish embryos results in surprising insights into neurodegenerative disease processes in the human brain. A new study by scientists at ...

User comments : 0