Potential kidney harm linked to rosuvastatin, a commonly used cholesterol-lowering drug

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A recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University has raised concerns about the potentially harmful effects of rosuvastatin, a widely prescribed statin drug used to lower cholesterol levels, on the kidneys, particularly at higher doses.

Initial reports linking rosuvastatin with kidney damage, such as the presence of blood (hematuria) and protein (proteinuria) in the urine, were noted when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug.

However, there has been limited post-marketing surveillance to assess the real-world risk of kidney damage associated with rosuvastatin.

To investigate further, researchers analyzed electronic health record data from 152,101 new users of rosuvastatin and 795,799 new users of another statin called atorvastatin between 2011 and 2019.

Over a three-year follow-up period, the researchers observed hematuria in 2.9% of rosuvastatin users and proteinuria in 1.0% of users.

Comparing rosuvastatin to atorvastatin, they found that rosuvastatin was associated with 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.

The risks of hematuria and proteinuria were found to increase with higher doses of rosuvastatin.

Additionally, the study revealed that 44% of patients with advanced kidney disease were prescribed higher doses of rosuvastatin than recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for individuals with poor kidney function.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that the potential risks associated with high-dose rosuvastatin, including the increased risk of hematuria, proteinuria, and kidney failure, may outweigh the benefits, particularly for individuals with advanced kidney disease.

However, the study also revealed that both rosuvastatin and atorvastatin demonstrated similar heart benefits.

Implications for Medical Practitioners and Patients

The study’s findings have important implications for both medical practitioners and patients, especially those with a history of kidney problems or those taking high doses of rosuvastatin.

The researchers suggest that regular monitoring of kidney function is crucial for individuals taking rosuvastatin, particularly those with advanced kidney disease.

While the study has limitations, such as being observational in nature, it contributes to the existing evidence linking rosuvastatin to kidney damage.

Further research is needed to thoroughly assess the risk of kidney damage associated with rosuvastatin use. Medical professionals should be aware of the potential harm that the drug may pose to the kidneys.

Side Effects of Statins

Statins are generally considered safe and effective in lowering cholesterol levels and reducing the risk of heart disease.

However, like any medication, they can have side effects. Some common side effects of statins include:

Muscle pain and weakness: This is the most frequently reported side effect, affecting up to 10% of statin users. The pain can range from mild to severe and may be accompanied by weakness or fatigue.

Liver damage: While rare, statins can cause liver damage. Regular liver function monitoring with blood tests may be necessary for individuals taking statins.

Digestive problems: Statins can lead to digestive issues such as nausea, constipation, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems. These side effects often resolve on their own over time.

Memory loss and confusion: Some individuals have reported memory loss, confusion, and cognitive problems while taking statins. However, there is no definitive evidence linking statins to these issues.

Increased blood sugar levels: Statins can elevate blood sugar levels in some individuals, potentially increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

However, the benefits of statins in reducing the risk of heart disease may outweigh this risk.

Skin rash: Certain individuals may develop a skin rash or experience other allergic reactions to statins.

It is essential for individuals taking statins to discuss any concerns or potential side effects with their healthcare providers.

The study highlighting the potential kidney harm associated with rosuvastatin was published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology and conducted by Jung-in Shin et al.

If you care about kidney health, please read studies about how to protect your kidneys from diabetes, and scientists find the key to treatment of kidney diseases.

For more information about kidney health, please see recent studies about how to live long with kidney disease,  and common painkillers may harm heart, kidneys and more.

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