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Statins May Stave Off Gallstones
Date:11/10/2009

ive to 19 statin prescriptions required surgery, compared with 2.4 percent of those not taking the medication. For those with 20 or more prescriptions, the incidence of surgery was 3.2 percent, compared with 3.7 percent for those not taking the drug.

The study indicates that all statins provide the protective effect and that the effect increases with higher doses, the report said.

But the study results do not indicate whether a statin should be prescribed solely to help prevent gallstones in someone who did not have them, said Dr. Farid Kehdy, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Louisville.

"This would have to be studied thoroughly, prescribing a medication for something that may or may not occur," Kehdy said.

And prescribing a statin to reduce the chance that surgery would be needed is also questionable, he said.

"You would have to take it for a year and a half to reduce the risk ratio," Kehdy said. "Will a patient be willing to do that? It would be a daily burden if you don't know for sure."

Medical history indicates that such a prescription would be questionable, he said. Several decades ago, Kehdy said, physicians routinely prescribed a medication, ursodeoxycholic acid, to help dissolve gallstones, but the high cost, inconvenience and side effects of the medication led to abandonment of the practice.

So a decision to prescribe a statin should center on its known benefits in cardiovascular disease, with gallstones a side issue, he said.

"If you are on a statin, the risk of gallstones would be lessened," Kehdy said. "If someone does not have gallstones, would you want to take a statin for the sake of preventing gallstones? That question remains to be addressed."

More information

The U.S. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse has more about gal
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