May 4, 2021

Study finds link between statin use and reduced COVID-19 deaths

A new study by Wayne State University School of Medicine physicians found a significant link between statin use and reduced mortality among COVID-19 patients. The use of statins was also associated with a reduced risk of severe infection and quicker recovery in hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

“Association between antecedent statin use and severe disease outcomes in COVID-19: A retrospective study with propensity score matching,” published in the Journal of Clinical Lipidology, found a significant reduction in mortality among patients hospitalized with COVID-19 infections who were already using prescribed statins for other health issues. 

Statins, like Atorvastatin, Simvastatin and others, are a class of drugs generally prescribed to address high cholesterol levels. The drugs provide anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and vasculo-protective effects.

Prateek Lohia, M.D.

“Consideration should be given to randomized control trials exploring the possible benefits of statin use in COVID-19 patients,” said Prateek Lohia, M.D., M.H.A., assistant professor of Internal Medicine and lead author of the study.

While further study is needed to understand the underlying mechanisms contributing to the findings, Dr. Lohia said statins might be playing a role in assisting in the recovery of critically ill patients by reducing lung inflammation and injury, as well as their endothelial cell stabilizing characteristics.

The retrospective study involved 1,014 patients admitted to Detroit Receiving and Harper/Hutzel University hospitals for treatment of COVID-19 infection. Of those, 454 were already using statins before they were admitted to the hospitals. The patients were older and had a significantly greater severe burden of comorbidities such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, congestive heart failure, preexisting lung diseases, chronic kidney disease and history of stroke. A number of these conditions have been associated with worse clinical outcomes related to COVID-19 infection.

The median age of the patients in the study was 65, with a near equal number of male and females. Seventy-four percent of the patients were African American.

“We found a significant reduction in mortality among COVID-19 patients who were using statins as home medication, compared to statin non-users,” Dr. Lohia said. “Patients on a moderate and high dose of statins had a significant reduction in mortality compared to statin non-users, while the patients on low dose statins did not have a significant association with reduced mortality.

"Although only randomized control trials can provide the best evidence regarding the effect of statins on clinical outcomes in COVID-19, in light of the current pandemic, this study reports that the use of statins appears to be safe and recommends continued adherence to guideline-recommended statin therapy for patients with preexisting comorbidities for which statins have already been proven to be effective," he added.

Dr. Lohia’s coauthors on the study are research associate Shweta Kapur, M.S.; and Internal Medicine residents Sindhuri Benjaram, M.D., and Tanveer Mir, M.D.

The Journal of Clinical Lipidology has also published an editorial about the study, “Statins in COVID-19 Infection: A Rehash of Old Themes or Truly a New Hope?” by Xiaoming Jia, M.D., a medical resident at the Baylor College of Medicine, and Salim Virani, M.D., Ph.D., FACC, professor of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Research at Baylor College of Medicine and immediate past chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Section.

"I think it is a proud moment for a young Wayne State faculty when their study is described as ‘meticulous’ work by an eminent researcher of national and international repute,” Dr. Lohia said. “It not only validates all the hard work put into conducting the research study, besides being a clinical educator. Such encouragement also motivates a relatively new researcher like myself that their work is being recognized and discussed by one of the best in the country."

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