A new analysis suggests many patients in advanced stages of kidney disease are inappropriately being prescribed statins to lower their cholesterol — drugs that offer no benefit and may increase other health risks such as diabetes, dementia, or muscle pain.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs, are based on a review of multiple studies and raise serious new questions about the value of cholesterol-lowering therapies in kidney disease, the researchers said.
"There is very little benefit to statin drugs for patients in the early stages of kidney disease, and no benefit or possible toxicity for patients in later stages," said Ali Olyaei, a professor of pharmacotherapy in the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University, and lead author on the new report.
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"I believe the evidence shows that the majority of people with chronic kidney disease are taking statins inappropriately. They may help a little in early-stage disease, but those people are not the ones who generally die from cardiovascular diseases. And by the end stages the risks outweigh any benefit. More drugs are not always better."
Some of the particular risks posed by statin use, especially at higher doses, include severe muscle pain known as rhabdomyolysis, an increase in dementia, and the risk of developing diabetes. Research also shows that statins do nothing to slow the progression of kidney disease.
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