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The risk of developing gallstones is significantly reduced by long-term use of statins to control cholesterol, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports.
More than 2.5 million people take statins to improve their chances of avoiding a heart attack, while one in five will develop gallstones over their lifetime.
The drug works by reducing the amount of cholesterol – also a major component of gallstones – collecting in arteries, which can cause blockages and potentially trigger heart attacks.
Researchers found that those on statins are one fifth less likely to develop gallstones. However, the effect appears to be limited to those who have been taking statins over a long period.
The findings are the result of an analysis of more than 27,000 patients who had surgery because of gallstones and a comparison group of more than 100,000 healthy patients.
The research, by a team at University Hospital, Basel, Switzerland, said: “Our findings may be of clinical relevance given that gallstone disease represents a major burden for health care systems.”
Copyright Press Association 2009