Hepatotoxicity associated with statins: reports of idiosyncratic liver injury post-marketing

J Hepatol. 2012 Feb;56(2):374-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2011.07.023. Epub 2011 Sep 1.


Background & aims: Limited data exist on drug-induced liver injury (DILI) associated with statins.

Methods: Reports on adverse reactions suspected to be due to statins received by the Swedish Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory Committe 1988-2010 were analyzed. Only cases with >5×upper limit of normal (ULN) in aminotransferases and/or alkaline phosphatase >2×ULN were included.

Results: The most common types of ADRs suspected were DILI in 124/217 (57%) cases. A total of 73/124 (59%) cases had at least possible relationship, median age 64 years (57-73), 55% males, whereas 25/124 cases (20%) were excluded due to mild elevations of liver tests and 26 due to unlikely relationship and/or lack of data. A statin-related DILI episode was reported in 1.2/100,000 users. Atorvastatin was implicated in 30/73 (41%) cases, simvastatin in 28 (38%), fluvastatin (15%), and others. Two patients died of acute liver failure, one underwent liver transplantation and 25 (34%) had jaundice. Three patients were rechallenged with the same statin producing similar patterns of liver injury. The median duration of therapy was 90 days (30-120), 120 (39-248) for atorvastatin, and 75 (30-150) for simvastatin (NS). Cholestatic/mixed injury was more common with atorvastatin, 17/30 (56%) than with simvastatin, 7/28 (24%) (p=0.018).

Conclusions: Idiosyncratic liver injury associated with statins is rare but can be severe. After recovery, a similar pattern of liver injury can be reproduced on re-exposure. Most patients experience liver injury 3-4 months after start of therapy. Atorvastatin is mostly associated with cholestatic liver injury whereas hepatocellular injury is more common with simvastatin.

MeSH terms

  • Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting Systems
  • Aged
  • Atorvastatin
  • Chemical and Drug Induced Liver Injury / etiology*
  • Female
  • Heptanoic Acids / administration & dosage
  • Heptanoic Acids / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pyrroles / administration & dosage
  • Pyrroles / adverse effects
  • Simvastatin / administration & dosage
  • Simvastatin / adverse effects
  • Sweden
  • Time Factors


  • Heptanoic Acids
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Pyrroles
  • Atorvastatin
  • Simvastatin