Statins – The cholesterol lowering drugs – not only reduce the risk of heart attack in patients with cardiovascular disease, they also appear to boost the health of their failing kidneys.
“Statin significantly improves renal function,” said study author Dr. Vasilios Athyros, of the Aristotelian University in Thessaloniki, Greece. The findings appear in the Journal of Clinical Pathology.
Since their introduction, statins such as Lipitor, Pravachol, and Crestor have revolutionized the care of people with heart disease. As patients continue to use the drugs, studies are suggesting they may also fight a host of other ailments, including cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.
In this latest study, Athyros and his colleagues tracked the kidney function of 1,600 Greek patients with heart disease and normal kidney function. The participants, all under the age of 75, were part of a study on the effectiveness of Lipitor in treating coronary disease.
Half of the group received Lipitor, the majority taking a 20-milligram dose of the drug per day. The other half of the group was placed on a low-fat diet and a regular exercise program. In this second group, 133 took some cholesterol-lowering drugs.
Kidney function deteriorates naturally with age, but this decline is more rapid in patients with heart disease. To see whether Lipitor was helping patients regain lost kidney function, Athyros periodically measured how well the kidneys cleared creatine, a waste product.
After three years of follow-up, the ability of patients not taking Lipitor to clear creatine from their kidneys fell by 5 percent.
On the other hand, patients on Lipitor displayed a 12 percent increase in creatine clearance — a sign their kidneys were actually rebounding.
According to Athyros, these results are “probably related to an effect of statin treatment on blood flow of the kidney,” with Lipitor increasing circulation as it lowers artery-clogging LDL, the “bad” cholesterol.