Cholesterol-lowering drugs may help kidney transplant patients reduce their risk of heart attacks, shows a new international study.
Drugs called statins have been shown to minimize cardiovascular disease in people with high cholesterol, and they also reduce the incidence in people with normal cholesterol levels who have other conditions that put them at higher risk for heart problems. Kidney transplant patients have a significantly higher risk of heart disease. The role cholesterol plays in increasing the risk in this population is unclear due in part to side effects from the immunosuppressive therapy they must receive after a transplant.
Investigators conducted a randomized trial involving about 2,100 kidney transplant patients. About half the group was assigned to take the cholesterol-lowering statin fluvastatin. The other half received a placebo. All were treated for five to six years.
By the end of the study, researchers found fluvastatin had lowered LDL cholesterol levels by 32 percent. While there was no statistically significant difference in cardiovascular events overall in the two groups, those in the fluvastatin group did experience fewer fatal and nonfatal heart attacks -- 70 vs. 104. This finding is similar to results from studies of statin use in other populations.
Researchers conclude fluvastatin may be beneficial in reducing the heart disease risk common in kidney transplant patients. They write, "These findings have implications for the management of cardiovascular risk and for future cardiovascular intervention trials in renal transplantation."