Could Your Cholesterol Medication Be Risking Your Kidney Health?

If you’re taking a type of drug called a fibrate to manage your cholesterol or triglycerides (blood fats), it’s essential that your doctor regularly tests your kidney function. Studies show that these medications, which include brand names such as Lopid, Tricor, and Trilipix, can often cause kidney damage, especially in older individuals.

Recent findings from clinical trials and case reports suggest that fibrates can lead to increased serum creatinine levels, a critical indicator of kidney health measured through blood tests. High serum creatinine typically signifies deteriorating kidney function. Researchers at the Lawson Health Research Institute and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) discovered that at least one in 10 fibrate users aged 65 and above experienced a 50 percent increase in their serum creatinine levels.

According to researcher Amit Garg, M.D., when a physician prescribes a fibrate for a new patient, particularly an older individual, they should administer the most suitable dose and closely monitor their kidney function. If there are signs of deteriorating kidney function, they may need to lower the dose or discontinue the medication.

However, some experts doubt the efficacy of fibrates. These drugs are often given to patients with diabetes in addition to statins, which lower LDL cholesterol. Each year, sales of the three fibrates approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration, including gemfibrozil (Lopid), fenofibrate (Tricor), and fenofibric acid (Trilipix), amount to billions of dollars.

Sanjay Kaul, M.D., the Director of the Cardiology Fellowship Training Program at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, points out that there have been very few studies on the clinical efficacy of fibrates. Despite many Americans using them daily, long-term studies have not shown that fibrates reduce cardiovascular risk or improve survival among diabetes patients also taking statins.

The importance of monitoring kidney function when taking fibrates cannot be overstated, as the kidneys play a vital role in maintaining overall health. Some key functions include filtering waste and excess fluid from the blood, controlling blood pressure, and producing hormones that help make red blood cells and regulate bone health.

Kidney damage over time can lead to chronic kidney disease (CKD), which may progress to kidney failure without treatment. CKD is often asymptomatic and thus not detected until it reaches an advanced stage. It’s crucial to monitor kidney function while on fibrates to ensure kidney health and minimize the risk of further complications.

Aside from the potential risks associated with fibrates, there are alternative ways to reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels naturally. Adopting a healthy diet that’s rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can help lower blood fats. Controlling portion sizes and avoiding foods high in saturated and trans fats can also contribute to better cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Incorporating regular physical activity into your daily routine can help keep cholesterol and triglyceride levels in check as well. It’s generally recommended to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week to maintain heart health.

Other lifestyle changes, such as limiting alcohol consumption and quitting smoking, can also offer benefits for managing cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In combination with regular doctor visits and careful monitoring, implementing these lifestyle changes can support better cardiovascular health and decrease the risks associated with taking fibrates.

In summary, while fibrates are frequently prescribed for managing cholesterol and triglyceride levels, they can pose risks to kidney health, especially among older people. It’s vital to regularly monitor kidney function while using these medications, and if negative changes are detected, your doctor may need to adjust your dosage or consider alternative treatment options. As with any medication, weighing the potential benefits and risks is essential, and incorporating healthy lifestyle changes can provide additional support for heart health.