Fetal toxicity associated with statins: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Atherosclerosis. 2021 Jun:327:59-67. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2021.05.006. Epub 2021 May 16.


Background and aims: Statins are the drugs of choice for decreasing elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Based mostly on animal studies and case reports, they are forbidden to pregnant women and in the preconception period because of their possible teratogenic effects, for which causality has never been proven. The aim of this study was to systematically review the existing studies and to perform a meta-analysis on this topic.

Methods: The databases PubMed/MEDLINE, Scopus, and Web of Science were searched since the inception until May 16, 2020. The risk of bias for each clinical trial was evaluated using the Cochrane handbook criteria for systematic reviews. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) quality assessment tool was used for the evaluation of cohort and cross-sectional studies. Meta-analysis was performed on the extracted data. Heterogeneity was assessed using I2 measure and Cochrane's Q statistic. We calculated a pooled estimate of odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) using a random-effects model.

Results: 23 studies (nine cohort studies, six case reports, six case series, one population-based case-referent study and one clinical trial) with 1,276,973 participants were included in the systematic review and 6 of them (n = 1,267,240 participants) were included in meta-analysis. The results of the critical review did not suggest a clear-cut answer to the question whether statin treatment during pregnancy is associated with an increased rate of birth defects or not, while the results of the meta-analysis indicated that statin use does not increase birth defects [OR (95%CI): 1.48 (0.90, 2.42), p = 0.509], including cardiac anomalies [2.53 (0.81, 7.93), p = 0.112] and other congenital anomalies [1.19 (0.70, 2.03), p = 0.509)].

Conclusions: We observed no significant increase of birth defects after statin therapy. Thus, there is still no undoubtful evidence that statin treatment during pregnancy is teratogenic, and this issue still needs to be investigated, especially there are more and more pregnant women at high CVD risk that could have benefited from the statin therapy.

Keywords: Birth defect; Congenital anomaly; Fetus; Meta-analysis; Statins; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors*
  • Pregnancy
  • United States


  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Cholesterol