Statins linked to lower death rate in Covid-19 patients, study finds

Jun 26, 2020
The large-scale study looked into the use of statins, either alone or in combination with ACE inhibitors and ARBS. Source: Getty.

Statins have gotten a bad rap in recent years, but a new study had found the cholesterol-lowering drugs are associated with a lower death rate in patients hospitalised with Covid-19. The research, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, also showed that mortality risk and other negative outcomes were not increased by combination therapy consisting of statins and blood pressure-lowering drugs, known as ACE inhibitors, and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs).

“These results support the safety and potential benefits of statin therapy in hospitalised patients with Covid-19 and provide a rationale for prospective studies to determine whether statins confer protection against Covid-19-associated mortality,” study author Hongliang Li of Wuhan University said.

“Moreover, our findings represent an important contribution to the accumulating clinical evidence regarding the beneficial or detrimental effects of prescribing ACE inhibitors or ARBs to patients with Covid-19.”

Before now, it was not clear how patients with Covid-19 were affected by the use of statins, either alone or in combination with ACE inhibitors and ARBs. To put this to the test, Li and his team carried out a retrospective study of 13,981 Covid-19 patients admitted to 21 hospitals in Hubei Province, China.

Among these patients, 1,219 used statins, while those with high blood pressure (319) used statins combined with ACE inhibitors or ARBs, and 603 used statins combined with other antihypertensive drugs (drugs that are used to treat hypertension). The researchers analysed mortality rates and secondary outcomes, including the incidence of invasive mechanical ventilation, admission to intensive care units, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and liver, kidney or heart injury.

Over a 28-day follow-up period, statin use was associated with a lower death rate and a lower incidence of mechanical ventilation. The researchers also found statins combined with ACE inhibitors or ARBs was associated with a 65 per cent drop in the death rate.

“Although the use of an ACE inhibitor or ARB was once speculated to be potentially harmful in patients with Covid-19, several professional societies have recommended the continued use of these drugs in patients with Covid-19 and pre-existing hypertension,” Li said. “To our knowledge, the results from this study are the first clinical evidence supporting the notion that the risk of Covid-19 mortality is not increased by using ACE inhibitors or ARBs in combination with statin treatment.”

However, the study does not prove that the lower death rate of patients with Covid-19 is directly caused by the use of statins, either alone, or with ACE inhibitors or ARBs.

“Although these data do provide supportive evidence for the safety of statins or the combination of statins with ACE inhibitors or ARBs for treatment in patients with COVID-19, further randomised controlled trials to prospectively explore the efficacy of statins on COVID-19 outcomes appears justified.”

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