Newswise — MAYWOOD, IL. – Clinical trials have shown that cholesterol-lowering statin drugs can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in kidney disease patients who are not on dialysis.

But a new study has found that statins are used by only 21.8 percent  of such patients who do not already have cardiovascular disease or diabetes or have not been diagnosed with high cholesterol.

The study by researchers from Loyola Medicine, Loyola University Chicago and Hines VA Hospital was published in Clinical Kidney Journal.

"Our findings suggest a need for education efforts to increase statin use in adults with non dialysis-dependent chronic kidney disease," reported first author Talar Markossian, PhD, MPH, corresponding author Holly Kramer, MD, MPH, and colleagues.

More than 500 million people worldwide have chronic kidney disease and are not on dialysis. Most cases are due to diabetes and high blood pressure, which also are strong risk factors for heart attacks, strokes and other forms of cardiovascular disease. The risk of cardiovascular disease increases sharply as kidney disease becomes worse.

In the new study, researchers examined records of 581,344 patients receiving care from Veterans Affairs facilities. Patients were aged 50 and older, with stages 3-5 kidney disease that did require dialysis.

About three-fourths of patients who had kidney disease plus cardiovascular disease or diabetes used statins. But in the absence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes or high cholesterol, statin use was only 21.8 percent. This finding is concerning because about 90 percent of such patients have at least a 10 percent risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years, and this risk could be reduced by taking statins. Statin use also is believed to be low in patients outside the VA.

The study is titled "Low statin use in nondialysis-dependent chronic kidney disease in the absence of clinical atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease or diabetes."

In addition to Drs. Markossian and Kramer, other co-authors are Nicholas Burge, PharmD, Ivan Pacold, MD, David Leehey, MD, Zhiping Huo, MS, Julia Schneider, MD, Benjamin Ling, DO, and Kevin Stroupe, PhD.