A new study by researchers of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine has found that patients who took statins had a 41% lower risk of in-hospital death from COVID-19, according to Science Daily.
The study was published Thursday in the journal PLOS ONE.
Statins are commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs that block liver enzymes responsible for making cholesterol. More than 90% of patients with hypercholesterolemia use statins, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Lead author Dr. Lori Daniels said, “When faced with this virus at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of speculation surrounding certain medications that affect the body’s ACE2 receptor, including statins, and whether they may influence COVID-19 risk.”
“At the time, we thought that statins may inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection through their known anti-inflammatory effects and binding capabilities, which could potentially stop progression of the virus,” she added.
The researchers looked at medical records of more than 10,500 patients admitted for COVID-19 from January 2020 to September 2020.
Dr. Daniels explained, “From this data, we performed more advanced analyses as we attempted to control for coexisting medical conditions, socioeconomic status, and hospital factors. In doing so, we confirmed our prior findings that statins are associated with a reduced risk of death from COVID-19 among patients hospitalized for COVID-19.”
The investigators said the use of statins or antihypertensive agents was associated with a 32% lower risk of death among hospitalized COVID-19 patients, especially those with a history of cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure.
Study co-author Dr. Karen Messer said, “We matched each patient to one or more similar patients, using hospital site, month of admission, age, race, ethnicity, gender, and a list of pre-existing conditions, in order to make the two groups as comparable as possible.”
Statins and antihypertensive drugs are known to stabilize the underlying diseases, allowing patients to recover from COVID-19 more quickly, according to the authors.
“As with any observational study, we cannot say for certain that the associations we describe between statin use and reduced severity of COVID-19 infection are definitely due to the statins themselves; however, we can now say with very strong evidence that they may play a role in substantially lowering a patient’s risk of death from COVID-19,” Dr. Daniels explained. “We hope that our research findings are an incentive for patients to continue with their medication.”