A prospective study of hepatic safety of statins used in very elderly patients

BMC Geriatr. 2019 Dec 16;19(1):352. doi: 10.1186/s12877-019-1361-2.


Background: Statins play an important role in the care of patients with cardiovascular disease and have a good safety record in clinical practice. Hepatotoxicity is a barrier that limits the ability of primary care physicians to prescribe statins for patients with elevated liver transaminase values and/or underlying liver disease. However, limited population-based data are available on the use of statin therapy and on the hepatotoxicity of statins in very elderly patients. This prospective study evaluated the liver enzyme elevation during statin therapy in very elderly patients (≥80 years old).

Methods: Patients with hypercholesterolemia (LDL-C levels ≥3.4 and < 5.7 mmol/L), atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease (CHD), or a CHD-risk equivalent were enrolled and received once-daily statin treatment. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to study the impact of age, gender, hepatitis B infection, fatty liver disease, biliary calculus, other chronic diseases, drug kinds, alcohol abuse, statin variety, and statin dose variables.

Results: A total of 515 consecutive patients ranging from 80 to 98 years old were included in the analysis. These patients were treated with simvastatin, fluvastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin, or atorvastatin. Twenty-four patients (4.7, 95% CI 2.7-6.6) showed an increase in their hepatic aminotransferase levels. No significant difference of hepatic aminotransferase elevation rates was observed in different statin treatment groups. The incidence of mild, moderate, and severe elevation of aminotransferase levels was 62.5% (15/24), 29.2% (7/24), and 8.3% (2/24), respectively. None of the patients developed hepatic failure. Nine patients with moderate or severe aminotransferase elevations discontinued therapy. The time of onset of hepatic aminotransferase elevation ranged from 2 weeks to 6 months after statin treatment. The onset of hepatic aminotransferase elevation was within 1 month for 70.8% of patients. The patients took 2 weeks to 3 months to recover their liver function after statin therapy cessation. Multivariate analysis identified chronic hepatitis B infection and alcohol consumption as independent factors associated with the hepatic response to statins: OR, 12.83; 95% CI (4.36-37.759) and OR, 2.736; 95% CI (1.373-5.454), respectively.

Conclusion: The prevalence of elevated transaminases was higher than published data in very elderly patients. Overall, statin treatment is safe for patients ≥80 years old.

Keywords: Hepatotoxicity; Statins; Very elderly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Coronary Disease / blood
  • Coronary Disease / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / blood
  • Hypercholesterolemia / drug therapy
  • Liver / drug effects*
  • Liver / enzymology*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Transaminases / blood*


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Transaminases