June 11, 2013 — According to a study published in the British Medical Journal in March, people who use “high-potency” statins to lower cholesterol are 34% more likely to develop kidney damage and kidney failure than people on “low-potency” statins. The researchers estimated that for every 1,700 people who use a high-dose statin for 120 days, about one extra person would be hospitalized with kidney failure. Because tens of millions of people take these drugs, this translates to thousands of cases of kidney injury.

The researchers pooled data on more than 2 million people using statins and compared the rate of kidney injury between high-dose statins and low-dose statins. All of the participants were over 40 years old and started taking a statin between 1997 and April 2008. Approximately one-third of the participants were using high-potency statins.

“High-potency” statins were defined as:

  • Crestor (rosuvastatin): 10 milligrams or more
  • Lipitor (atorvastatin): 20 milligrams or more
  • Zocor (simvastatin): 40 milligrams or more
  • Other statins were defined as “low-potency.”

The researchers also published an editorial to recommend that physicians always to use low-potency statins whenever possible to help provide cardiovascular benefits without increasing the patient’s risk of kidney injury. This recommendation is important to consider, because the trend has been moving toward prescribing higher doses of statins in an effort to improve cardiovascular outcomes more substantially.


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