Lead author Colin Dormuth, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, and colleagues found a 34 percent increase in risk of hospitalization for acute kidney injury within 120 days of starting treatment with high potency statins as compared with low potency statins.
Statins are among the most widely used prescription drugs, and are proven life-savers for patients with high cholesterol who have heart disease, but they are also often prescribed to patients with high cholesterol who have no history of heart disease.
"Although the absolute risk of kidney damage with these drugs is low, our findings put into question the common approach of using higher doses to push cholesterol levels lower and lower," Dormuth said in a statement. "In some cases, patients may be exposed to unnecessary risk of kidney damage for small gains in cardiovascular health."
About 1-in-500 patients in the study were hospitalized for acute kidney injury within a period of up to two years after starting on lower strength statin therapy.
For patients on therapy for one to two years, those on the higher strength medications were at 15 percent greater relative risk of kidney injury, Dormuth said.
The findings were published in the British Medical Journal.