Physicians have quipped for years that HMG CoA Reductase inhibitors—the cholesterol-busters better known as “statins,” ought to be put in the nation’s drinking water.
The quip is likely to be heard even more nowadays, because a study by Meredith VanderMeer and colleagues from the Oregon Department of Public Health has shown that patients who were hospitalized for seasonal (not H1N1) flu–and who by coincidence were taking statins–had a lower risk of dying from the infection.
VanderMeer reported her team’s findings at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
In their study of 2,800 people hospitalized for flu complications, 801 patients were taking statins for high cholesterol at the time of admission. Only 17 of of them died in the hospital or within 30 days of discharge. In the remaining 1999 patients who were not taking statins, 64 died.
The difference in mortality, 2.1% vs. 3.2%, amounted to a statistically significant 54% reduction, and persisted after controlling for confounding factors such as age and the use of antiviral drugs.
Patients in the study were taking a variety of statins, including Crestor, Lescol, Lipitor, Mevacor, Pravachol, and Zocor. It was not clear whether any one of them was associated with more beneficial effects than the others.
The data for the study was pulled from the CDC’s Emerging Infections Program and covered the 2007-2008 influenza season (again, not H1N1).
According to VanderMeer, the link between statins and decreased seasonal flu mortality is not entirely surprising. Flu complications like pneumonia are caused by inflammation, and statins have anti-inflammatory effects.
VanderMeer suggested that a randomized controlled trial might help confirm her teams’ findings.