File photo/Zhang Jian (NBD)
Commonly used cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may help reduce the death rate in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, according to a new study published in the journal Cell Metabolism.
Animal studies have shown that statin drugs can improve immune cell responses, reduce inflammation, and slow the progression of lung injury. However, it was unclear how clinical outcomes in patients with COVID-19 would be affected by the use of statins, either alone or in combination with other drugs.
In search of answers, researchers at the Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University conducted the study, involving 13,981 COVID-19 patients in 21 hospitals in Hubei Province, among which 1,219 received statins.
After a follow-up of 28 days, researchers found that the death rate of the statin group was 5.2 percent, lower than the 9.4 percent death rate of the non-statin group.
The large-scale study also showed that the use of statin drugs was associated with a decreased incidence of invasive mechanical ventilation, admission to intensive care units, and acute respiratory distress syndrome in COVID-19 patients. Besides this, those who took statins had much lower levels of inflammation biomarkers than those who did not, indicating that the drugs can prevent patients from progressing to severe illness.
According to researchers, 319 patients in the study used statins combined with angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibitors or angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs), and 603 used statins combined with other blood pressure medicines. The study showed that adding an ACE inhibitor or an ARB did not increase the death risk in patients.
“These results proved the safety and efficacy of statin drugs in treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients,” said lead researcher Li Hongliang, adding that the statins are promising drugs for COVID-19, especially when there is no approved vaccine or treatment for the disease.