Statin-related adverse events: a meta-analysis

Clin Ther. 2006 Jan;28(1):26-35. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2006.01.005.


Background: The absolute frequencies of adverse events (AEs) between statins and placebo are very low in clinical trials, making clinical interpretation and application difficult.

Objectives: This meta-analysis was intended to synthesize the collective AE data observed in prospective randomized clinical trials to facilitate clinical interpretation.

Methods: Using the search terms atorvastatin, simvastatin,pravastatin, rosuvastatin, fluvastatin, lovastatin, prospective trial, and randomized trial, the MEDLINE/EMBASE and the Cochrane Collaboration databases were reviewed for prospective randomized primary and secondary prevention trials of statin monotherapy. Nonrandomized uncontrolled studies and those missing AE data were excluded. The Mantel-Haenszel test for fixed and random effects was used to calculate odds ratios (ORs) and log ORs.

Results: Eighteen trials including 71,108 persons, and 301,374 person-years of follow-up were represented in this analysis. There were 36,062 persons receiving a statin and 35,046 receiving a placebo. Statin therapy increased the risk of any AE by 39% (OR = 1.4; 95% CI, 1.09-1.80; P = 0.008; NNH [number needed to harm] = 197) compared with placebo. Statins were associated with a 26% reduction in the risk of a clinical cardiovascular event (OR = 0.74; 95% CI, 0.69-0.80; P < 0.001; number needed to treat = 27). Treating 1000 patients with a statin would prevent 37 cardiovascular events, and 5 AEs would be observed. Serious events (creatine phosphokinase >10 times the upper limit of normal or rhabdomyolysis) are infrequent (NNH = 3400) and rhabdomyolysis, although serious, is rare (NNH = 7428). Atorvastatin was associated with the greatest risk of AEs and fluvastatin with the least risk. Simvastatin, pravastatin, and lovastatin had similar odds of AEs. Nonurgent AEs such as myalgia and liver function elevations were responsible for approximately two thirds of AEs reported in trials.

Conclusions: Statin therapy was associated with greater odds of AEs compared with placebo but with substantial clinical benefit. Similar rates of serious AEs were observed between statin and placebo.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Hypercholesterolemia / drug therapy*
  • Incidence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Rhabdomyolysis / chemically induced
  • Rhabdomyolysis / epidemiology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors