Side effects of Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor may cause users to face an increased the risk of suffering kidney damage, according to the findings of new research.
In a study published this week by the British Medical Journal, Canadian researchers found that the use of high-potency statins, which are among the most widely used cholesterol medications in the United States, resulted in patients being one-third more likely to be hospitalized for acute kidney injury within four months.
Researchers looked at data on more than two million patients from the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom, specifically looking at patients given what the researchers considered high-potency statins, such as Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor. Patients reviewed in the study were given the medications for the first time between January 1, 1997 and April 30, 2008, and researchers examined the rates of hospitalizations due to kidney injury.
Within 120 days of treatment, researchers found 4,691 patients who were hospitalized for non-chronic kidney injury, and 1,896 patients hospitalized for chronic kidney injury. While there was no correlation between the use of statins and chronic kidney injury, the researchers found that patients who took Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor were 34% more likely to be hospitalized for a non-chronic kidney injury than those who did not take the drugs.
Statins are a class of medications used to lower cholesterol by reducing blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol. LDL cholesterol is a major contributor to coronary artery disease. The entire class of cholesterol medications is one of the best-selling classes of drugs in the United States, with more than $14.5 billion in combined sales in 2008.
Other studies have found that about 1 in 10,000 statin users develop a sometimes-fatal muscle condition known as rhabdomyolysis. The rare condition causes skeletal muscle damage and releases myoglobin into the bloodstream. The myoglobin can cause severe kidney failure or death.
In 2001, the statin-based drug Baycol was removed from the market due to its links with rhabdomyolysis. In June 2011, the FDA placed restrictions on the use of 80 mg Zocor, which could include twice-a-day 40mg doses, due to the risk of myopathy and rhabdomyolysis, warning doctors that no new patients should be placed on the high dose regimen due to the risk of muscle problems.