A team from the University of Glasgow also found that fibrates, drugs often given to patients with elevated blood fat levels – hypertriglyceridema – to reduce the risk of pancreatitis may actually make them more likely to develop the painful and potentially fatal condition.
The scientists in the Institute for Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences carried out a meta-analysis of 28 clinical trials with 190,000 patients and found that statins, drugs taken by one in three adults over the age of 45 in the UK which were previously believed to be a risk factor for pancreatitis, are actually an effective means of reducing the likelihood of the condition developing.
Conversely, the study found that fibrates, a different class of drugs often given to people with modestly raised levels of blood fat instead of statins, may actually increase the risk of developing pancreatitis possibly due to the raised risk of developing gallstones.
The study pooled data from all previously conducted large fibrate trials and statin trials to examine whether these medications have any effect on risk of pancreatitis. Researchers concluded that statins could reduce the risk by 20% while fibrates may actually increase the risk by up to 40%.
The results also suggest that current guidelines for primary use of fibrates in those with extreme triglyceride elevations are open to question.
Dr David Preiss, senior clinical lecturer fellow, said: “Our research challenges the belief that fibrates are a good option for people with moderately raised blood fat levels.
“Statins appear to be a better option, not only because they reduce the risk of heart attacks but also because they may reduce pancreatitis risk. These results are of great importance when you consider the number of people taking these medications.”
The research, ‘Lipid-modifying therapies and risk of pancreatitis’ is published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
For more information contact Stuart Forsyth in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 4831 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
A copy of the paper is available on request.