NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Patients taking statins for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease may have a lower risk of hospitalization for COVID-19 than matched individuals not taking the medications, a large new study suggests.
An analysis of data from more than 2 million statin users and a similar number of matched controls revealed a 16% lower risk of hospitalization for COVID-19 among those taking statins, researchers report in the.
“I would like to underline that the observation of the association between statin use and hospitalization for COVID-19 does not necessarily mean a causal relationship,” said Dr. Mahmoud Zureik of the University of Paris-Saclay and director of EPI-Phare, in France.
“If causal, the lower risk of hospitalization for COVID-19 among statin users would probably be due to the pleiotropic beneficial effects of statins as anti-inflammatory, immune-modulatory and anticoagulant agents,” Dr. Zureik told Reuters Health by email. “We observed a lower risk of hospitalization for COVID-19 with all types of statins – atorvastatin, simvastatin, rouvastatin, pravastatin and fluvastatin.”
To take a closer look at the impact of statins on the risk of hospitalization for COVID-19, Dr. Zureik and his colleagues turned to information from the French National Health Data System.
Included in the analysis were 2,058,249 patients who were taking statins as monotherapy for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and a control group of the same number of non-users who were matched to each of statin users by birth, sex, residence area, and whether they had hypertension, diabetes or a chronic respiratory condition.
The study participants had an average age of 69 and just under half were men.
Statin users had a significantly lower risk of hospitalization for COVID-19 than nonusers (adjusted hazard ratios, 0.84). The researchers found similar results when it looking at in-hospital death from COVID-19.
There have been a number of studies showing that mortality rates were lower in patients treated with statins, said Dr. Robert Rosenson, director of cardiometabolic disorders at Mount Sinai and a professor of medicine and cardiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City.
“The strength of this study is that it describes a larger experience,” said Dr. Rosenson, who was not involved in the research. “It supports the fact that statins reduce cardiovascular events in patients with COVID-19.”
“There’s been an extensive literature from the late 1990s showing that statins have anti-inflammatory effects,” he told Reuters Health by phone. “Other studies showed that continuing statins in people with SARS and MERS led to lower adverse outcomes.”
“It’s known that many patients experience an over-exuberant inflammatory response with COVID-19,” Dr. Rosenson said, adding that while an inflammatory response is normal and protective, when it is excessive it can cause damage.
“Statins reduce or blunt that over-exuberant inflammatory response,” Dr. Rosenson said. “And that appears to be associated with a lower complication rate in patients with COVID-19.”
The study had no specific funding, and the authors report no conflicts of interest.
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