Statins for Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2022 Nov 14;11(11):CD013521. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD013521.pub2.


Background: Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (SLOS) is a multiple congenital malformations syndrome caused by defective cholesterol biosynthesis. Affected individuals show cholesterol deficiency and accumulation of various precursor molecules, mainly 7-dehydrocholesterol and 8-dehydrocholesterol. There is currently no cure for SLOS, with cholesterol supplementation being primarily a biochemical therapy of limited evidence. However, several anecdotal reports and preclinical studies have highlighted statins as a potential therapy for SLOS.

Objectives: To evaluate the effects of statins, either alone or in combination with other non-statin therapies (e.g. cholesterol, bile acid, or vitamin co-supplementation), compared to cholesterol supplementation alone or in combination with other non-statin therapies (e.g. bile acid or vitamin supplementation) on several important outcomes including overall survival, neurobehavioral features, and adverse effects in individuals with SLOS.

Search methods: We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, five other databases and three trials registers on 15 February 2022, together with reference checking, citation searching and contact with study authors to identify additional studies.

Selection criteria: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and quasi-RCTs with parallel or cross-over designs, and non-randomized studies of interventions (NRSIs) including non-randomized trials, cohort studies, and controlled before-and-after studies, were eligible for inclusion in this review if they met our prespecified inclusion criteria, i.e. involved human participants with biochemically or genetically diagnosed SLOS receiving statin therapy or cholesterol supplementation, or both.

Data collection and analysis: Two authors screened titles and abstracts and subsequently full-texts for all potentially-relevant references. Both authors independently extracted relevant data from included studies and assessed the risks of bias. We analyzed the data extracted from the included NRSIs and cohort studies separately from the data extracted from the single included RCT. We used a random-effects model to account for the inherent heterogeneity and methodological variation between these different study designs. We used GRADE to assess the certainty of evidence.

Main results: We included six studies (61 participants with SLOS); one RCT (N = 18), three prospective NRSIs (N = 20), and two retrospective NRSIs (N = 22). Five studies included only children, and two limited their participant inclusion by disease severity. Overall, there were nearly twice as many males as females. All six studies compared add-on statin therapy to cholesterol supplementation alone. However, the dosages, formulations, and durations of treatment were highly variable across studies. We judged the RCT as having a high risk of bias due to missing data and selective reporting. All included NRSIs had a serious or critical overall risk of bias assessed by the Risk Of Bias In Non-randomized Studies of Interventions tool (ROBINS-I). None of the included studies evaluated survival or reported quality of life (QoL). Only the included RCT formally assessed changes in the neurobehavioral manifestations of SLOS, and we are uncertain whether statin therapy improves this outcome (very low-certainty evidence). We are also uncertain whether the adverse events reported in the RCT were statin-related (very low-certainty evidence). In contrast, the adverse events reported in the NRSIs seem to be possibly due to statin therapy (risk ratio 13.00, 95% confidence interval 1.85 to 91.49; P = 0.01; low-certainty evidence), with only one of the NRSIs retrospectively mentioning changes in the irritability of two of their participants. We are uncertain whether statins affect growth based on the RCT or NRSI results (very low-certainty evidence). The RCT showed that statins may make little or no difference to plasma biomarker levels (low-certainty evidence), while we are uncertain of their effects on such parameters in the NRSIs (very low-certainty evidence).

Authors' conclusions: Currently, there is no evidence on the potential effects of statin therapy in people with SLOS regarding survival or QoL, and very limited evidence on the effects on neurobehavioral manifestations. Likewise, current evidence is insufficient and of very low certainty regarding the effects of statins on growth parameters in children with SLOS and plasma or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) levels of various disease biomarkers. Despite these limitations, current evidence seemingly suggests that statins may increase the risk of adverse reactions in individuals with SLOS receiving statins compared to those who are not. Given the insufficient evidence on potential benefits of statins in individuals with SLOS, and their potential for causing adverse reactions, anyone considering this therapy should take these findings into consideration. Future studies should address the highlighted gaps in evidence on the use of statins in individuals with SLOS by collecting prospective data on survival and performing serial standardized assessments of neurobehavioral features, QoL, anthropometric measures, and plasma and CSF biomarker levels after statin introduction. Future studies should also attempt to use consistent dosages, formulations and durations of cholesterol and statin therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Child
  • Cholesterol
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors* / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome* / drug therapy
  • Vitamins


  • Bile Acids and Salts
  • Cholesterol
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Vitamins