Statin use and risk of gallstone disease followed by cholecystectomy

JAMA. 2009 Nov 11;302(18):2001-7. doi: 10.1001/jama.2009.1601.


Context: Gallstone disease is a leading cause of morbidity in western countries and carries a high economic burden. Statins decrease hepatic cholesterol biosynthesis and may therefore lower the risk of cholesterol gallstones by reducing the cholesterol concentration in the bile. Data on this association in humans are scarce.

Objective: To study the association between the use of statins, fibrates, or other lipid-lowering agents and the risk of incident gallstone disease followed by cholecystectomy.

Design, setting, and participants: Case-control analysis using the UK-based General Practice Research Database. Incident patients between 1994 and 2008 and 4 controls per each patient were identified and matched on age, sex, general practice, calendar time, and years of history in the database. The study population was 76% women and the mean (SD) age was 53.4 (15.0) years at the index date. Conditional logistic regression was used to estimate the odds ratio (OR) of developing gallstones followed by cholecystectomy in relation to exposure to lipid-lowering agents, stratified by exposure timing and duration. The ORs and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were adjusted for smoking, body mass index, ischemic heart disease, stroke, and estrogen use.

Main outcome measure: The adjusted OR (AOR) for developing gallstone disease followed by cholecystectomy in relation to exposure to lipid-lowering agents.

Results: A total of 27,035 patients with cholecystectomy and 106,531 matched controls were identified, including 2396 patients and 8868 controls who had statin use. Compared with nonuse, current statin use (last prescription recorded within 90 days before the first-time diagnosis of the disease) was 1.0% for patients and 0.8% for controls (AOR, 1.10; 95% CI, 0.95-1.27) for 1 to 4 prescriptions; 2.6% vs 2.4% (AOR, 0.85; 95% CI, 0.77-0.93) for 5 to 19 prescriptions, and 3.2% vs 3.7% (AOR, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.59-0.70) for 20 or more prescriptions. The AORs for current use of statins defined as 20 or more prescriptions were similar (around 0.6) across age, sex, and body mass index categories, and across the statin class.

Conclusion: Long-term use of statins was associated with a decreased risk of gallstones followed by cholecystectomy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cholecystectomy / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Gallstones / epidemiology*
  • Gallstones / surgery
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk
  • Time Factors


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Hypolipidemic Agents