Statins and atherosclerotic cardiovascular outcomes in patients on incident dialysis and with atherosclerotic heart disease

Am Heart J. 2021 Jan;231:36-44. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2020.10.055. Epub 2020 Oct 21.


Statins failed to reduce cardiovascular (CV) events in trials of patients on dialysis. However, trial populations used criteria that often excluded those with atherosclerotic heart disease (ASHD), in whom statins have the greatest benefit, and included outcome composites with high rates of nonatherosclerotic CV events that may not be modified by statins. Here, we study whether statin use associates with lower atherosclerotic CV risk among patients with known ASHD on dialysis, including in those likely to receive a kidney transplant, a group excluded within trials but with lower competing mortality risks.

Methods: Using data from the United States Renal Data System including Medicare claims, we identified adults initiating dialysis with ASHD. We matched statin users 1:1 to statin nonusers with propensity scores incorporating hard matches for age and kidney transplant listing status. Using Cox models, we evaluated associations of statin use with the primary composite of fatal/nonfatal myocardial infarction and stroke (including within prespecified subgroups of younger age [<50 years] and waitlisting status); secondary outcomes included all-cause mortality and the composite of all-cause mortality, nonfatal myocardial infarction, or stroke.

Results: Of 197,716 patients with ASHD, 47,562 (24%) were consistent statin users from which we created 46,186 matched pairs. Over a median 662 days, statin users had similar risk of fatal/nonfatal myocardial infarction or stroke overall (hazard ratio [HR] 1.00, 95% CI 0.97-1.02), or in subgroups (age< 50 years [HR = 1.05, 95% CI 0.95-1.17]; waitlisted for kidney transplant [HR 0.99, 95% CI 0.97-1.02]). Statin use was modestly associated with lower all-cause mortality (HR 0.96, 95% CI 0.94-0.98; E value = 1.21) and, similarly, a modest lower composite risk of all-cause mortality, nonfatal myocardial infarction, or stroke over the first 2 years (HR 0.90, 95% CI 0.88-0.91) but attenuated thereafter (HR 0.98, 95% CI 0.96-1.01).

Conclusions: Our large observational analyses are consistent with trials in more selected populations and suggest that statins may not meaningfully reduce atherosclerotic CV events even among incident dialysis patients with established ASHD and those likely to receive kidney transplants.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Atherosclerosis / drug therapy*
  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology
  • Cause of Death
  • Coronary Disease / drug therapy*
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Kidney Transplantation
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / epidemiology
  • Propensity Score
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • Stroke / epidemiology


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors