Benefits of statins outweigh increased risk of cataracts, kidney failure, liver dysfunction: study

According to the results of a study published in the British Medical Journal, the use of statins such as Pfizer’s Lipitor (atorvastatin) and AstraZeneca’s Crestor (rosuvastatin) increase the risk of cataracts, kidney failure, and liver dysfunction. The researchers noted however that “when used according to current guidelines, the benefits of statins outweigh their risks.”

The researchers followed over 2 million patients in the UK from 2002 to 2008 and estimated that for every 10 000 people taking a statin, there were around 307 extra patients who developed cataracts, 23 additional patients with acute kidney failure, and 74 extra patients with liver dysfunction. The side effects were found to occur in the first year of statin use and remained for as long as the drugs were taken. The risk of developing cataracts returned to normal within a year of patients stopping the drugs, while the risk of the other conditions returned to normal within three years, the researchers said.

In addition, the study estimated that there were about 271 fewer cases of heart disease and eight fewer cases of oesophageal cancer per 10 000 people taking a statin. However, researchers were unable to confirm suggestions from previous studies that statins can protect against the development of Parkinson’s disease, deep vein thrombosis in the legs, rheumatoid arthritis, fractures, and dementia. The research also confirmed previous studies that found no clear link between statins and a reduced risk of most cancers.

The researchers noted that the study may be useful "for informing guidelines on the type and dose of statins" although they recommended that patients taking statins should be "proactively monitored" for side effects.

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