Chronic Kidney Disease Patients Can Avoid Negative Effects Associated With Statin Drugs

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The beneficial effects of statins (medication that lowers total cholesterol and reduces risk of a heart attack or stroke) in Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patients are very controversial. Administered to many with CKD because of their increased risk of heart disease, the list of serious negative effects of statin drugs seem to be growing and include memory loss, muscle pain, neuropathy, fatigue, increased risk of diabetes, depression and arthritis pain. According to a study, the vast majority of drug trials which show statins to be safe have been conducted by drug manufacturers. Most people with CKD will likely take statin medication for the rest of their lives which can make side effects more difficult to manage and it may seem like the risks outweigh the benefits of these powerful cholesterol-lowering drugs. However, you should consider both the risks and benefits before you discuss alternative options with your doctor.

Recommended Reading: Why Your Cholesterol Medication May Not be Effective if You are an ESRD Patient

Researchers discovered that while statins appeared to help prevent heart attacks and strokes in some patients, there was simply not enough evidence to prove that people with no history of heart disease can safely take these drugs. Yet millions of relatively heart healthy people, including those with CKD are preemptively prescribed statins by their healthcare team. Amy Thompson, Senior Cardiac Nurse, British Heart Foundation  added, "It is unclear whether statins provide any real benefits for people without heart and circulatory disease." Now she and others are advising people without any history of heart disease to avoid statins altogether. However, individuals with CKD are at a heightened risk of Cardiovascular Disease and a new study found that Statin use was associated with lower heart disease morbidity and mortality in patients undergoing hemodialysis. Whether these findings can be attributed to the larger Kidney Community is yet to be determined.

Recommended Reading: Why Your Cholesterol Medication May Not be Effective if You are an ESRD Patient

It is unclear what causes statin side effects, but the drug may affect not only your liver's production of cholesterol but also several enzymes in muscle cells which can be responsible for muscle aches and weakness. To combat the negative side effects of statins you may want to lower or switch to another statin drug. It is possible that one particular statin may cause side effects for you while another statin will not. On the other hand, lowering your dose may reduce some of your side effects, but it may also reduce some of the cholesterol lowering benefits your medication has. So KidneyBuzz.com recommends that you discuss with your Nephrologist switching your medication to another statin that is equally effective but can be taken in a lower dose.

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The question remains whether statin drugs provide any real benefits for you. According to a 2010 study, for every heart attack allegedly prevented by statins, two people suffer liver damage, kidney failure, cataracts or extreme muscle weakness. Lifestyle changes are the best line of defense against high cholesterol, but for many people with CKD maintaining a consistent diet, weight control, and exercise program are often severely challenging and thus insufficient in lowering cholesterol. If you are considering stopping the use of statins, then talk with your Nephrologist about the effectiveness of other non-statin cholesterol medication such as a cholesterol absorption inhibitor which may help you avoid having to take statin drugs.

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References: 

"The Beneficial Effects of Statins in Patients Undergoing Hemodialysis." US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health Search Database Search Term Clear Input

Staff, Mayo Clinic. "Statin Side Effects: Weigh the Benefits and Risks." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

"Alternatives to Statins." EMedTV: Health Information Brought To Life.

"The Major Side Effects of Statin Drugs." Statin Answers.