drugs cause liver damage, kidney failure and cataracts, says BMJ
statin drugs significantly increase a person's risk of cataracts, muscle
weakness, liver dysfunction and kidney failure, according to a study in
the British Medical Journal.
study also confirmed that the drugs lower the risk of heart disease and
esophageal cancer, but claims of other health benefits were unsupported.
from Nottingham University in the United Kingdom examined data on more than
2 million patients between the ages of 30 and 84, seen at 38 different general
practices, who had been prescribed the cholesterol-lowering drugs. More
than 70 percent were taking simvastatin (Zocor), 22.3 percent were taking
atorvastatin (Lipitor), 3.6 percent were taking pravastatin (Pravachol,
Selektine), 1.9 percent were taking rosuvastatin (Crestor) and 1.4 percent
were taking fluvastatin (Canef, Lescol, Lochol, Vastin).
researchers confirmed prior data suggesting that statins increase patients'
risk of cataracts, liver dysfunction, kidney failure and a form of muscle
weakness known as myopathy. They found that for every 10,000 women treated
with the drugs, 23 would develop acute kidney (renal) failure, 39 would
develop myopathy, 74 would develop liver dysfunction and 309 would develop
cataracts. Men suffered an even higher risk of myopathy, but their risks
of the other three conditions were similar to those suffered by women.
it in different terms, the researchers found that only 434 people would
need to be treated with the drugs for five years for one case of acute renal
failure to develop. It would take only 136 treated for each case of liver
dysfunction and 33 for each case of cataracts. Among women, 259 would need
to be treated for each case of myopathy; among men, the number was only
risk of developing all conditions was highest during the first year of treatment,
but continued throughout the course of the study. Risk of liver and kidney
problems increased proportionally with the dose of statins being taken.
drugs appeared to pose a similar risk of all conditions, with the exception
of fluvastatin, which increased the risk of liver dysfunction more than
its competitors. Men taking fluvastatin were twice as likely to develop
liver dysfunction as those not taking statins, while women's risk increased
by 2.5 times.
researchers did find, however, that the risk of cataracts returned to normal
within one year of stopping statin treatment, while the risk of liver and
kidney problems returned to normal within one to three years. Additionally,
they found no connection between statin use and the risk of dementia, osteoporotic
fracture, Parkinson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis or venous thromboembolism.
the purported benefits of the drugs, researchers found that they did in
fact lower the risk of heart disease, averting 271 cases for every 10,000
high-risk patients treated. Put another way, 33 high-risk men or 37 high-risk
women would need to be treated with the drugs to avert one case of the disease.
advocates of the drugs have claimed that they may also reduce the risk cancer,
the researchers found almost no data supporting these claims. The study
"largely confirmed other studies that reported no clear association
between statins and risk of cancers," the researchers wrote.
only cancer-fighting effect uncovered in the study was a slightly lower
risk of esophageal cancer, with eight cases averted for every 10,000 high-risk
women treated. In other words, 1,266 high-risk women or 1,082 high-risk
men would need to be treated with the drugs to prevent one case of esophageal
sales of the blockbuster drugs are unlikely to be reduced as a result of
the study, the researchers encouraged closer monitoring of patients for
side effects and said their findings "would tend to support a policy
of using lower doses of statins in people at high risk of the adverse event."
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