Millions of people who take statins may be less likely to die from COVID-19 than people who do not take the medication, a recent study has shown.
The drugs focus on lowering cholesterol levels in the blood. In addition, they can also reduce inflammation in blood vessels, making them one of the most common medications.
The study published in PLOS Medicine found that statin treatment is associated with a lower risk of dying from COVID-19. Despite this, health experts have urged caution over these findings and have stressed that this does not concretely mean that they work against coronavirus.
Using data from Swedish registers, the Karolinska Institutet followed 963,876 residents of Stockholm over the age of 45 between March and November 2020.
The results found drew on analyses of data on the participants’ prescribed medication and healthcare and from the Cause of Death Register.
The co-first author of the Department of Global Public Health at the Karoliska Institutet, Viktor Ahlqvist, said: “All in all, our findings support the continued use of statins for conditions such as cardiovascular disease and high levels of blood lipids in line with current recommendations during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The researchers have stated that randomised studies do need to be ascertain whether there is a causal relationship.
The study does have a number of limitations such as the use of prescriptive data without checking individual drug use and the inability to control risk factors including smoking.
Professor of cardiovascular medicine and honorary consultant cardiologist, University of Sheffield, Tim Chico, said it was not obvious why statins have shown to help against the virus.
“Covid-19 can cause very severe lung infections but it also causes inflammation of the blood vessels,” he said. “Because statins reduce inflammation in blood vessels, there has been a lot of debate as to whether they might improve outcome in Covid-19.
“This study does not prove that statins reduce death in Covid-19, but does provide some supportive clues. It observes that people prescribed statins were less likely to die than similar people. However, this does not prove the statins caused the reduced death rates; to do so needs a randomised controlled trial.”
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