Statin Drugs May Reduce Flu Deaths
Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Associated With 50% Lower Odds of Dying From Seasonal Flu
Oct. 29, 2009 (Philadelphia) -- Once again, the popular cholesterol-lowering
statin drugs have been shown to be good for more than the heart: They may also
lower your odds of dying of the flu.
In a large study of people hospitalized with seasonal influenza, those who
were taking statins were about 50% less likely to die than those who weren't
taking the drugs.
"Our preliminary research suggests there may be a role for statins in
influenza treatment," says Meredith VanderMeer, MPH, of the Oregon Public
The statin drugs include Crestor, Lescol, Lipitor, Mevacor, Pravachol, and
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases
Society of America (IDSA).
For the study, VanderMeer and colleagues combed the medical records of 2,800
people who were hospitalized with seasonal flu in 10 states during the
2007-2008 influenza season -- before the H1N1 strain caused the current swine
flu pandemic. The sample of people studied is representative of people across
the U.S., she says.
Of the total, 801 were taking statins for high cholesterol and continued to
take them while hospitalized.
Overall, 17 (2.1%) of patients taking statins died while in the hospital or
within 30 days afterward, compared with 64 (3.2%) who were not taking
After taking into account other risk factors such as age and use of
antiviral drugs, this corresponded to 54% lower odds of death for statin users,
VanderMeer tells WebMD.
The researchers did not look at whether duration or dose of statin affected
the results. But they are now analyzing the data to determine if one brand of
statin is associated with better odds of surviving the flu than another.
Other research has also suggested that statins may help keep the flu virus
in check by lowering inflammation and activating the immune system, VanderMeer
She called for studies in which some flu patients are given statins and
others are not, and both groups are followed over time.
In the meantime, people with the flu shouldn't ask their doctors to
prescribe statins in hopes of having a better prognosis, says the University of
Utah's Andrew Pavia, MD, head of the IDSA's pandemic influenza task force.
"But if you're on statins for your cholesterol, you may be getting some
extra benefit," he tells WebMD.