Statins May Lift Hearts But Not Kidneys

Statins reduced LDL cholesterol but not the risk of kidney failure

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Lowering unhealthy cholesterol with statins can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients, including those with kidney disease. This therapy, however, may not help kidney disease itself.

Cardiovascular disease is common in individuals with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Statins have been shown to improve heart conditions in CKD patients.

While some research has suggested that lowering cholesterol may also boost kidney health, a new investigation has found that statin therapy did not prevent kidney failure.

"Ask a doctor how statins may help lower cholesterol."

Richard Haynes, MD, a member of the Royal College of Physicians at the University of Oxford, Clinical Trial Service Unit and the Oxford Kidney Unit at Oxford Radcliffe Hospital NHS Trust, served as lead author on this study of 6,245 chronic kidney disease patients who were not on dialysis at the start of the investigation.

A total of 3,116 patients were assigned to receive regular treatment with simvastatin (a statin) along with ezetimibe (a medication that blocks the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine) and 3,129 were given a placebo (fake medication).

The researchers noted that after five years of follow-up, patients taking the statin therapy reduced their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol concentration by an average of 1 mmol/L (millimole per liter) compared to those taking the placebo. The treatment appeared to be safe and well tolerated among all patients.

The statin therapy, however, did not have a significant effect on the progression of kidney disease to end-stage renal disease (when the kidneys are no longer able to work at a level needed for day-to-day life). About one-third of patients in both groups went on to get dialysis, and about 8 percent of patients in each group received a transplant.

Dr. Haynes and team also observed that statins did not affect how quickly kidney function deteriorated.

In a press release, Dr. Haynes said that the combination of simvastatin and ezetimibe cut the risk of heart attack, stroke, vascular stenting and bypass surgery but did not influence the risk of end-stage renal disease.

“LDL cholesterol-lowering therapy is indicated in patients with advanced CKD to prevent atherosclerotic disease [hardening and narrowing of the arteries] but not to prevent the progression of renal [kidney] disease,” concluded the authors.

This study was published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN). The research was conducted and interpreted independently of the principal study funder, Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough Corporation, which merged in 2009.

Review Date: 
May 1, 2014
Last Updated:
May 2, 2014