Addition of statins to the standard treatment in patients with cirrhosis: Safety and efficacy

World J Gastroenterol. 2021 Jul 28;27(28):4639-4652. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v27.i28.4639.


This review summarizes the safety and efficacy of statins in patients with cirrhosis. Due to concerns about the safety of statins in patients with impaired liver function, they have recently been investigated as a potential treatment option in cirrhosis. The most clinically significant adverse event is statin-related myopathy, and this may be related to the high serum statin concentrations in the setting of severely impaired liver function. Rhabdomyolysis is the most serious and potentially life-threatening manifestation. It has recently been demonstrated that the recommended dose of simvastatin in patients with decompensated cirrhosis would be 20 mg/d because higher values, such as 40 mg/d, are associated with many adverse events, especially muscle injury. Likewise, simvastatin should not be administered to patients with Model for End-stage Liver Disease score > 12 and/or Child-Pugh class C because of the high risk of severe muscle injury. Due to the pleiotropic effects, the focus on statins has shifted from being considered harmful to something useful. Through these effects, statins could prevent liver-related morbidity and mortality in cirrhotic patients. Observational studies in large populations of patients with cirrhosis have shown that treatment with statins to decrease high cholesterol levels was associated with a reduced risk of hepatic decompensation, hepatocellular carcinoma development and death. The few randomized controlled trials in patients with cirrhosis and portal hypertension showed that statins lower portal pressure, quite likely through a reduction in hepatic resistance. Another large randomized controlled trial in patients with variceal bleeding showed that simvastatin in addition to standard of care did not prevent rebleeding but improved survival rate. Despite these encouraging outcomes, the quality of the evidence regarding the use of statins is low or very low due to the observational characteristics of most of the studies involved. Therefore, it is advisable to perform further randomized controlled trials on a large series of patients with hard clinical endpoints, using different statin types and varying doses. The objectives would be to prevent liver-related morbidity and mortality rather than treating cirrhosis complications to take additional information that makes it possible to add statins to the standard of care of these patients.

Keywords: Cirrhosis; Efficiency; Liver disease; Safety; Statins.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • End Stage Liver Disease*
  • Esophageal and Gastric Varices*
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors* / adverse effects
  • Hypertension, Portal*
  • Liver Cirrhosis / complications
  • Liver Cirrhosis / drug therapy
  • Liver Neoplasms*
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors