Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Statins fail again

Statins have a tortured relationship with nephrology. Our patients have accelerated atherosclerosis and they die overwhelmingly of cardiovascular disease. So one of my primary jobs is to continually optimize cardiovascular risk factors to save my patients
Control blood pressure, start an aspirin, and maximize the statin are the lather, rinse, repeat of my world.
That said we have little data that this makes a whit of difference, at least in our dialysis patients.

  • No randomized trials have been done on the role of aspirin to prevent cardiovascular events among dialysis patients.
  • Aspirin was found to increase acute coronary syndrome in an unbadjusted analysis but was not significant in multivariate analysis.
  • Berger et al. (PDF), however found a dramatic reduction in 30-day mortality for patients with acute myocardial infarction given aspirin. Unfortunatly fewer dialysis patients received ASA and other standards of heart-attack care (beta-blocker and ACEi) than patients not on dialysis.
The survival of patients based on whether they received ASA for their acute MIThe use of standard therapies for acute myocardial infarction was lower among dialysis patients, even patients deemed ideal candidates for the therapy.

Blood pressure
  • Hypertension, along with cholesterol and obesity, is subject to reverse epidemiology in dialysis patients. This means that observed epidemiology trends are the opposite of what you would expect from data on non-dialysis patients. Lower blood pressure leads to high mortality, lower cholesterol leads to higher mortality, increased BMI yields better observed survival. The observational data, however, does not mean that interventions to lower blood pressure will lead to the same bad outcomes.
  • A recent meta-analysis (PDF) of 8 randomized trials of anti-hypertensive therapy gives credence to the practice of treating hypertension in dialysis patients.

  • One thing high lighted by the trial, though, is the paucity of evidence for this treatment: They were able to find only 1,679 patients. Terrible.
  • The 4D study is one of the few randomized controlled trials in dialysis patients and unfortunately did not show any improvement in mortality with atorvastatin. The study randomized 1,255 hemodialysis patients to either 20 mg of atorvastatin or placebo. After 4 years they found the statin was safe and effective in reducing the median serum LDL cholesterol level by 42%. However, the primary endpoint—cardiac death, nonfatal MI, and stroke—was reduced by insignificant 8% (P=0.37).

  • The authors found a significant increase in fatal strokes among the patients randomized to atorvastatin. (RR 2.03, P=0.04).
  • Today came word that another randomized controlled trial on statins among hemodialysis patients, AURORA, was also a bust. Published yesterday in The Journal, AURORA randomized 2,776 dialysis patients to 10 mg of rosuvastatin (Crestor) or matching placebo. The end-point was a composite of CV death, non-fatal MI, and non-fatal stroke. Average follow-up was 3.8 years and there was no difference in the primary outcome (396 outcomes with rosuvastatin versus 408 on placebo, P=0.51).

  • AURORA found no increased risk of strokes as found in the 4D study.
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