Common cholesterol-lowering statin drug may harm kidney health

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Statins can effectively lower high cholesterol, and many individuals take rosuvastatin, one member of this drug class.

But a recent study from Johns Hopkin found that rosuvastatin, especially at higher doses, may have damaging effects on the kidneys.

Reports had linked rosuvastatin with signs of kidney damage—hematuria (blood in the urine) and proteinuria (protein in the urine)—at the time of its approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but little post-marketing surveillance exists to assess real-world risk.

In the current study, the team analyzed electronic health record data for 152,101 new users of rosuvastatin and 795,799 new users of another statin called atorvastatin from 2011–2019.

Over a follow-up of 3 years, the researchers found hematuria in 2.9% of patients and proteinuria in 1.0% of patients.

Compared with atorvastatin, rosuvastatin was linked to an 8% higher risk of hematuria, a 17% higher risk of proteinuria, and a 15% higher risk of developing kidney failure requiring replacement therapy such as dialysis or transplantation.

Risks of hematuria and proteinuria were higher with a higher dose of rosuvastatin.

Also, among patients with advanced kidney disease, 44% were prescribed a higher dose of rosuvastatin than the US Food and Drug Administration recommends for individuals with poor kidney function.

The team says they found a higher risk of hematuria, proteinuria, as well as kidney failure with rosuvastatin use, and similar heart benefits between the rosuvastatin and atorvastatin groups.

Because rosuvastatin may cause proteinuria and hematuria, especially with high doses, high dose rosuvastatin may not merit the risk—even if small—particularly for people with advanced kidney disease.

The research was published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology and conducted by Jung-im Shin et al.

If you care about kidney health, please read studies about how to protect your kidneys from diabetes, and drinking coffee could help reduce risk of kidney injury.

For more information about kidney health, please see recent studies about foods that may prevent recurrence of kidney stones, and eating nuts linked to lower risk of chronic kidney disease and death.

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