Statins less dangerous than thought for liver patients

November 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.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Spare parts from small parts: Novel scaffolds to grow muscle

February 20, 2018
Australian biomedical engineers have successfully produced a 3D material that mimics nature to transform cells into muscle.

Clues to obesity's roots found in brain's quality control process

February 20, 2018
Deep in the middle of our heads lies a tiny nub of nerve cells that play a key role in how hungry we feel, how much we eat, and how much weight we gain.

Study looks at how newly discovered gene helps grow blood vessels

February 19, 2018
A new study published today found that a newly discovered gene helps grow blood vessels when it senses inadequate blood flow to tissues.

Scientists produce human intestinal lining that re-creates living tissue inside organ-chip

February 16, 2018
Investigators have demonstrated how cells of a human intestinal lining created outside an individual's body mirror living tissue when placed inside microengineered Intestine-Chips, opening the door to personalized testing ...

Data wave hits health care

February 16, 2018
Technology used by Facebook, Google and Amazon to turn spoken language into text, recognize faces and target advertising could help doctors fight one of the deadliest infections in American hospitals.

Researcher explains how statistics, neuroscience improve anesthesiology

February 16, 2018
It's intuitive that anesthesia operates in the brain, but the standard protocol among anesthesiologists when monitoring and dosing patients during surgery is to rely on indirect signs of arousal like movement, and changes ...

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.