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High Potency Statins Linked to Increased Risk of Kidney Damage

Update Date: Mar 21, 2013 01:11 PM EDT

Statins are some of the most widely prescribed drugs in the western world. The benefits of the medication have been widely touted in clinical studies, though rare side effects have been left understudied. A recent study by Canadian researchers sought to change that, and found that taking high-potency statins significantly elevated the risk of acute kidney injury.

They are prescribed to combat high cholesterol and heart disease, and are quite controversial. The higher a patient's cholesterol, the higher the potency of the statin they receive. According to the Telegraph, most people take simvastatin, the cheapest type. Also on the market are atorvastatin, known by its brand name Lipitor, and rosuvastatin, which goes by Crestor. Because these statins are stronger, doctors prescribe lower dosages for the same effect. For the purposes of the study, high-potency statins were classified as dosages of 1o milligrams or higher for rosuvastatin, 2o milligrams or higher of atorvastatin and 40 milligrams or higher for simvastatin.

According to Forbes, the study looked at data from various databases in Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. Holding the data of 2 million statin users in these three countries, the databases also showed that 54,636 participants already had chronic kidney disease. One third of the participants received high-potency statins.

After 120 days of treatment, 4,691 participants without chronic kidney disease were hospitalized with acute kidney injury. An additional 1,896 participants with chronic kidney disease were hospitalized for the same cause. The researchers found that high potency statins increased the risk of acute kidney injury by 34 percent. Though the study only looked at the first 120 days of treatment, the researchers believe that the effect continues for the first two years of treatment.

Regardless, researchers insist that the increased risk is still quite small. "We estimate that 1,700 patients with non-chronic kidney disease need to be treated with a high potency statin instead of a low potency statin for 120 days to cause one additional hospitalization for acute kidney injury," Colin Durmuth, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, wrote, according to the CBC. The study would seem to serve as a reminder that physicians should not prescribe dosages of statins any higher than necessary.

The study was published in the journal BMJ.

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