Statin safety: a systematic review

Am J Cardiol. 2006 Apr 17;97(8A):52C-60C. doi: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2005.12.010. Epub 2006 Feb 3.


A systematic review of cohort studies, randomized trials, voluntary notifications to national regulatory authorities, and published case reports was undertaken to assess the incidence and characteristics of adverse effects in patients treated with 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors, or statins. For statins other than cerivastatin, the incidence of rhabdomyolysis in 2 cohort studies was 3.4 (1.6 to 6.5) per 100,000 person-years, an estimate supported by data from 20 randomized controlled trials. Case fatality was 10%. Incidence was about 10 times greater when gemfibrozil was used in combination with statins. Incidence was higher (4.2 per 100,000 person-years) with lovastatin, simvastatin, or atorvastatin (which are oxidized by cytochrome P450 3A4 [CYP3A4], which is inhibited by many drugs) than pravastatin or fluvastatin (which are not oxidized by CYP3A4). In persons taking simvastatin, lovastatin, or atorvastatin, 60% of cases involved drugs known to inhibit CYP3A4 (especially erythromycin and azole antifungals), and 19% involved fibrates, principally gemfibrozil. The incidence of myopathy in patients treated with statins, estimated from cohort studies supported by randomized trials, was 11 per 100,000 person-years. For liver disease, randomized trials reported fewer hepatobiliary disorders in patients allocated statins than in those allocated placebo. The notification rate of liver failure to regulatory authorities was about 1 per million person-years of statin use. Randomized trials show no excess of renal disease or proteinuria in statin-allocated participants, and the decline in glomerular filtration rate was smaller with statins than with placebo. Evidence from 4 cohort studies and case reports suggests that statins cause peripheral neuropathy, but the attributable risk is small (12 per 100,000 person-years). No change in cognitive function was found in randomized trials of statins in elderly patients.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting Systems
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury
  • Clofibric Acid / adverse effects
  • Creatine Kinase / blood
  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / administration & dosage*
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Kidney Diseases / chemically induced
  • Liver / enzymology
  • Muscular Diseases / chemically induced
  • Nervous System Diseases / chemically induced


  • Cytochrome P-450 Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Clofibric Acid
  • Creatine Kinase