NAFLD patients with abnormal liver tests may not get statins when indicated



– Though the liver safety of statins in patients with low-level liver enzyme elevations has long been established, some providers still hesitate to prescribe them to the patients with the conditions for which they are indicated.

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), hyperlipidemia, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes, which often co-occur, are also involved in cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease is the most common cause of mortality in NAFLD, before liver disease.

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Sonal Kumar, MD, MPH, of New York–Presbyterian Hospital described in a video interview at the annual Digestive Disease Week® a study she and her colleagues conducted to evaluate statin use in patients with hyperlipidemia by using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey during 2005-2014 (NHANES). Adult patients aged over 18 years were included if they did not have viral hepatitis, did not excessively consume alcohol, were not pregnant, and did not have transaminase levels over 500 IU/L.

Statin use was assessed in 136,833,627 participants by NHANES interviewers. Of these participants, 74.6% had hyperlipidemia (defined as LDL cholesterol greater than 130 mg/dL) and 93.5% were taking a statin. Patients with hyperlipidemia with abnormal alanine aminotransferase values were significantly less likely to be taking a statin (86.3% vs. 89.1%, P = .001). With multivariate analysis, abnormal ALT significantly decreased the odds of patients receiving a statin if they had diabetes (odds ratio, 0.75; 95% confidence interval, 0.57-0.99) when sex and age were controlled for.

Statins are underutilized in patients with NAFLD and diabetes, patient groups in whom they could help control cardiovascular disease risk factors, said Dr. Kumar. Providers need to be educated on the safety of statins in these patients to improve cardiovascular outcomes.

Dr. Kumar reported receiving support from Gilead and AbbVie.

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