Are Statin Users at Greater Risk for Back Disorders?

The researchers matched 6,728 statin users to non-users for the primary outcome of back disorders
The researchers matched 6,728 statin users to non-users for the primary outcome of back disorders

Statin users may be at increased risk for back disorders, according to a research letter published online in JAMA Internal Medicine

While the data on statins and back pain is limited, previous research has demonstrated a link between statin use and use-related injury and arthropathies. For this propensity score-matched study, researchers looked at data from TRICARE, the health insurance system of the US Department of Defense in San Antonio, Tx, between October 2003 and March 2012. They identified two groups of patients: statin users (recently received first-time prescription and continued for ≥120 days) vs. statin non-users; prevalent users were excluded. 

Patients were matched using 115 baseline characteristics and logistic regression analysis was used to examine the odds ratio (OR) for the primary outcome of back disorder diagnosis (ie, spondylosis, intervertebral disc disorders, other back problems). Secondary outcomes looked at the risk within the overall cohort before propensity score matching as well as in prespecified cohorts (length of time used, high-intensity use, nonobese, healthy, musculoskeletal diseases incident).  

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Six thousand seven hundred and twenty-eight statin users were identified (median use of 3.7 years) and matched to 6728 non-users; the overall cohort included 60,455 patients. In the propensity score-matched cohort, statin users were found to be at increased risk of back disorders compared to non-users (OR 1.27; 95%CI, 1.19–1.36); similar findings were seen in the secondary analyses.

"To our knowledge, this study is the first to report greater odds of back disorders among statin users compared with the odds of nonusers in a population with equal access to and the same cost of health care," the authors stated. However, they do note several limitations to their study, one of which being that the results may not be generalizable to a more sedentary population, as study patients were all enrollees in TRICARE and had military or veteran experience.

Still, the authors hope that this study will motivate researchers into further investigating the association between statins and musculoskeletal health, particularly if they are being prescribed to physically active patients for primary prevention.

For more information visit JAMAnetwork.com.