Addition of Simvastatin to Standard Therapy for the Prevention of Variceal Rebleeding Does Not Reduce Rebleeding but Increases Survival in Patients With Cirrhosis

Gastroenterology. 2016 May;150(5):1160-1170.e3. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2016.01.004. Epub 2016 Jan 14.


Background & aims: The combination of β-blockers and band ligation is the standard approach to prevent variceal rebleeding, but bleeding recurs and mortality is high. The lipid-lowering drug simvastatin decreases portal pressure, improves hepatocellular function, and might reduce liver fibrosis. We assessed whether adding simvastatin to standard therapy could reduce rebleeding and death after variceal bleeding in patients with cirrhosis.

Methods: We performed a multicenter, double-blind, parallel trial of 158 patients with cirrhosis receiving standard prophylaxis to prevent rebleeding (a β-blocker and band ligation) in Spain from October 2010 through October 2013. Within 10 days of bleeding, subjects were randomly assigned, but stratified by Child-Pugh class of A or B vs C, to groups given simvastatin (20 mg/d the first 15 days, 40 mg/d thereafter; n = 69) or placebo (n = 78). Patients were followed for as long as 24 months. The primary end point was a composite of rebleeding and death, and main secondary end points were the individual components of the composite (death and rebleeding).

Results: The primary end point was met by 30 of 78 patients in the placebo group and 22 of 69 in the simvastatin group (P = .423). Seventeen patients in the placebo group died (22%) vs 6 patients in the simvastatin group (9%) (hazard ratio for adding simvastatin to therapy = 0.39; 95% confidence interval: 0.15-0.99; P = .030). Simvastatin did not increase survival of patients with Child-Pugh class C cirrhosis. Rebleeding occurred in 28% of patients in the placebo group and 25% in the simvastatin group (P = .583). Serious adverse events occurred in 53% of patients in the placebo group and 49% in the simvastatin group (P = .752); the percentages of serious adverse events related to therapy were 11% in the placebo group vs 8% in the in the simvastatin group (P = .599). Two patients in the simvastatin group, each with advanced liver disease, developed rhabdomyolysis.

Conclusions: In a randomized controlled trial, addition of simvastatin to standard therapy did not reduce rebleeding, but was associated with a survival benefit for patients with Child-Pugh class A or B cirrhosis. Survival was not the primary end point of the study, so these results require validation. The incidence of rhabdomyolysis in patients receiving 40 mg/d simvastatin was higher than expected. European Clinical Trial Database ID: EUDRACT 2009-016500-24; ID: NCT01095185.

Keywords: Fibrosis; Liver Disease; Muscle Effects; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Aged
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices / diagnosis
  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices / drug therapy*
  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices / etiology
  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices / mortality
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / diagnosis
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / mortality
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Ligation
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / diagnosis
  • Liver Cirrhosis / mortality
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Recurrence
  • Rhabdomyolysis / chemically induced
  • Risk Factors
  • Simvastatin / adverse effects
  • Simvastatin / therapeutic use*
  • Spain
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Simvastatin

Associated data