Pneumonia death rates lower in statin users

Tue Apr 5, 2011 1:18pm EDT
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs such as Pfizer's Lipitor and AstraZeneca's Crestor could help prevent people dying from pneumonia, according to a study by British scientists released on Tuesday.

The investigators are not saying that everyone should take statins to protect themselves in case they get pneumonia. Instead, they say the results suggest that further research could be worthwhile, to see whether statins should be given to patients with severe infections who are diagnosed with pneumonia.

The researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that the risk of death in the six-month period after being diagnosed with pneumonia was substantially lower among those who were already taking the cholesterol-lowering drugs than in those who were not.

Previous studies have suggested statins, which are also available as cheaper generics, may be linked to better outcomes after bacterial infection. These findings suggest the pills may help protect against death in patients with pneumonia.

Statins such as Lipitor, Crestor, and a generic called simvastatin are widely prescribed to lower so-called "bad" or LDL cholesterol - a risk factor for heart disease - and are credited with being among the most successful drugs in helping to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Separate research published in March found that lowering cholesterol levels could help the body's immune system fight infections, a finding that appears to be supported by Tuesday's study.

"Statins are safe, cheap, and an easy intervention in terms of delivery," said Ian Douglas, a lecturer in epidemiology at the LSHTM who led the research.

"Given the potential low number needed to treat to prevent a death suggested by this study, we believe that a strong case exists for randomized trials of statins in people with serious infection to determine if a simple and practical intervention at the point of diagnosis of pneumonia has a beneficial effect."   Continued...