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Statins may cause kidney disease

Cholesterol-Lowering drugs may cause kidney problems


     It was just a few months ago that the statin drugs that are prescribed to artificially lower your serum cholesterol were implicated as a cause of maturity-onset Type 2 diabetes. Before the dust has even settled on that study another has come out, this one done in Canada indicating that these powerful drugs may cause kidney damage.

The Canadian study focused on the three principal “high-potency” cholesterol-lowering drugs, Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor, all of which are known to significantly reduce serum cholesterol levels.

The study found that patients prescribed the high-strength statins faced a 34 per cent higher risk of being hospitalized for acute kidney injury, compared to those taking low-potency versions of these and other statin medications.

Drugs like Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor come in 10mg, 20 mg and 40 mg strengths. Even though most of the studies show that 10mg a day of any of these drugs is sufficient, most physicians always opt for a higher dose. Unfortunately when you get up to the higher doses, side-effects become more prevalent and that is when the muscle pain, muscle cramps and even muscle deterioration begins. At least when this happens, the patient is aware of something wrong and can opt to discontinue the medication or lower the dose. Unfortunately in the case of Type 2 diabetes or kidney disease by the time the dose is corrected it may be too late to stop the progression of the disease.

The Canadian study was done by Dr. Colin Dormuth, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of British Columbia.

His study showed that the risk was relatively low but could be very serious. Statistically the study found that out of every 1700 people treated with high-potency statins for 120 days, at least one of them would end up in the hospital with acute kidney failure. That may not seem like much but what if you were that one person in excellent health and your physician decided to lower your cholesterol with one of these powerful drugs. You would not be happy lying in the hospital with a failing kidney.

On the other hand when you consider the millions of people taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, the number of people with induced kidney failure could be quite high. The numbers could even be higher because Dr.Dormuth only recorded patients whose kidneys failed and had to be hospitalized. Many other patients in the group who suffered severe side-effects stopped the drugs in time to avoid having their kidneys fail.

Dr.Dormuth worked with the Canadian Network for Observational Drug Effect Studies, or CNODES. The researchers combed through health databases from seven provinces, as well as databases in the United States and Britain, to pinpoint patients who had been prescribed statins between 1997 and 2008.

In total they reviewed the medical records of more than 2 million patients to reach their conclusions which were published in March of this year in the British Medical Journal, Lancet.

The original intent of the study was not to investigate the long-term effects of these drugs on the kidneys. They were looking at the over-all effectiveness of these drugs and the study was supposed to see if these statins drugs were a benefit at all, considering the large amount of side-effects they caused. They were actually surprised at how many patients who were on high doses had to have dialysis (blood cleansing treatment) done and the large numbers that had to remain on dialysis permanently.

The kidney is the organ that controls your electrolytes, the amount of sodium, potassium, calcium and magnesium ions that are involved in many areas of your body including muscle contraction. This could explain why so many people who take statin drugs to lower their cholesterol suffer muscle pain and damage. However the most important muscle in your body is your heart muscle and if the kidneys fail, then there is a huge risk of your heart failing as well causing death.

Before we had cholesterol-lowering drugs, the accepted level of LDL or bad cholesterol was 3.9. The accepted level of HDL or good cholesterol was approximately 1.1. This gave you a total number of 5.0 and was the accepted norm. However, as the drugs became more popular, the pharmaceuticals companies were instrumental in producing studies showing that the numbers should be lower. This was done in order to sell more drugs. As a result, physicians began using higher strengths and prescribing these drugs to people who were not even at risk for heart attacks and strokes. This highly aggressive treatment has resulted in so many phenomenal side-effects that the only conclusion you can make today is that the risks of these drugs outweigh the benefits.

In Canada as of the year 2010, 44 per cent of all Canadians over the age of 45 were taking cholesterol-lowering drugs. These drugs have been on the market since 1990. In the year 1990, the number one cause of death in Canada was heart attacks and strokes. Twenty years later it is still the number one cause of deaths in our country and the number has been slightly reduced from 37 per cent of our population in 1990 to 35 per cent of our population in 2010. In my opinion, the small reduction was due to more people quitting smoking rather than the effect of these drugs.

If the statistics show that cholesterol-lowering statins do not reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes, what is the benefit of taking these drugs? It is true that they lower your serum cholesterol and this makes your doctor happy when the blood tests come back. But what is the point of low cholesterol if there is no benefit to your health?

On the other hand, all the muscle pain, muscle deterioration, Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and even the huge increase in the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease  can be attributed to high dose statin drugs. If we are talking benefits versus risks, it has become painfully obvious that the risks are far greater than any benefit these drugs may provide.


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