Statins may be a viable treatment alternative for patients with chronic liver disease, according to an article published in the American Journal of Physiology—Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.
A reduction in blood cholesterol levels can have a positive effect on many chronic liver disorders, such as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, as well as in some biliary disorders. In a new review of more than 50 studies, researchers have identified factors associated with statin use that may offer benefits in the treatment liver disease.
For example, the team found that statins reduced inflammatory molecules that are typically elevated with liver disease and improved inflammation in the endothelium. Statin use was also associated with decreased fibrosis, decreased development of fatty liver, slowed or halted spread of hepatitis C virus, improvement of portal hypertension, destruction of existing liver tumor cells, and a reduced risk of liver cancer.
The authors of the new study acknowledge that statins can contribute to liver damage in some patients, and that these risks can impede broad use of statins for treatment of chronic liver diseases.
However, for patients with advanced liver disease, the authors write that statins “are cost-effective, generally well-tolerated by patients and the benefits of statin treatment in most patients outweigh their potential hepatotoxic risk.”