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QJM. 2012 Feb;105(2):145-57. doi: 10.1093/qjmed/hcr158. Epub 2011 Sep 14.

Adverse events associated with individual statin treatments for cardiovascular disease: an indirect comparison meta-analysis.

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Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.



Statins are the most widely prescribed drug available. Due to this reason, it is important to understand the risks involved with the drug class and individual statins.


We conducted a meta-analysis and employed indirect comparisons to identify differing risk effects across statins.


We included any randomized clinical trial (RCT) of atorvastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, pitavastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin used for cardiovascular disease event prevention. The main outcome was adverse events [all-cause mortality, cancers, rhabdomylosis, diabetes, aspartate and alanine aminotransferase (AST/ALT), and creatinine kinase (CK) increases beyond the upper limit of normal]. In order to evaluate the relative effects of each drug on adverse events, we calculated adjusted indirect comparisons of the adverse-event outcomes.


Seventy-two trials involving 159,458 patients met our inclusion criteria. Overall, statin treatments significantly increased the rate of diabetes when compared to controls (OR: 1.09; 95% CI: 1.02-1.16) and elevated AST (OR: 1.31; 95% CI: 1.04-1.66) and ALT (OR: 1.28; 95% CI: 1.11-1.48) levels when compared to controls. Using indirect comparisons, we also found that atorvastatin significantly elevated AST levels compared to pravastatin (OR: 2.21; 95% CI: 1.13-4.29) and simvastatin significantly increased CK levels when compared to rosuvastatin (OR: 4.39; 95% CI: 1.01-19.07). Higher dose studies had increased risk of AST elevations.


Although statins are generally well tolerated, there are risks associated with almost all drugs. With few exceptions, statins appear to exert a similar risk across individual drugs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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