This week JAMA published a meta-analysis on lipid-modifying therapies and the risk for pancreatitis. It was conducted by an honor roll of investigators, including LaRosa, Pedersen, Ridker, Kjekshus, McMurray, and others. The conclusion of the abstract says, “In a pooled analysis of randomized trial data, use of statin therapy was associated with a lower risk of pancreatitis in patients with normal or mildly elevated triglyceride levels.”
A casual reader might miss something even more interesting. The authors also looked at the much-maligned fibrates. You know, the drugs that many people touted to prevent pancreatitis in patients with elevated triglyceride levels. Well, the curious thing is that in the pooled analysis of the fibrate trials, these drugs were associated with a borderline significant 39% increase in the risk of pancreatitis (risk ratio, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.00–1.95) — a concerning finding, even if merely hypothesis-generating. Compare that with the 23% reduction in risk with statin therapy (RR, 0.77; 95% CI, 0.62–0.97).
The discussion notes that “no convincing trial data exist to support use of any agents for prevention of pancreatitis in this situation” (moderate elevation in triglyceride levels). The authors also acknowledge, appropriately, that their results should indeed be considered hypothesis-generating.
I agree this analysis has limitations, but what evidence we do have suggests, at least, that fibrates may be associated with a higher — not a lower — risk for pancreatitis. Fibrates, with about $2 billion dollars in sales annually, have yet to be shown in a trial to reduce risk. The results of the current meta-analysis therefore raise questions about their use.
What’s your view on the use of fibrates? Do you think the fibrate data in this meta-analysis get enough play in the article?