Study: Use of statins linked to lower death rate in COVID-19 patients
Using cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins is associated with a lower death rate in patients hospitalised with COVID-19, according to a large-scale study. The research, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, also showed that mortality risk and other negative outcomes were not increased by combination therapy consisting of statins and blood pressure-lowering drugs called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs).
"These results support the safety and potential benefits of statin therapy in hospitalised patients with COVID-19 and provide a rationale for prospective studies to determine whether statins confer protection against COVID-19-associated mortality," said study senior author Hongliang Li of Wuhan University in China. "Moreover, our findings represent an important contribution to the accumulating clinical evidence regarding the beneficial or detrimental effects of prescribing ACE inhibitors or ARBs to patients with COVID-19," Li said.
Currently, there is no vaccine or specific antiviral drug approved to prevent or treat severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, which causes COVID-19, the researchers noted. Because a vaccine or drugs for COVID-19 will likely not be available for months or even years, repurposing clinically approved therapies might be a more attractive option, they said.
According to the researchers, statins may serve such a purpose because these drugs slow the progression of lung injury in animals, improve immune cell responses, and strongly reduce inflammation, which is likely responsible for severe COVID-19 complications such as organ damage. Although statins generally have an excellent safety profile in humans, animal studies have shown that they increase the expression of ACE2 - the receptor that SARS-CoV-2 binds to and uses to enter host cells, they said.