Study finds statins reduce pneumonia death rates

* Pneumonia deaths lower in patients on statins in study

* Researchers say randomised trials now needed

* Cholesterol-lowering statins available as cheap generics

LONDON, April 5 (Reuters) – Taking cholesterol-lowering
statin drugs such as Pfizer’s (PFE.N: Quote, Profile, Research) Lipitor and AstraZeneca’s
(AZN.L: Quote, Profile, Research) Crestor could help prevent people dying from pneumonia,
according to a study by British scientists released on Tuesday.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical
Medicine found that the risk of death in the six-month period
after being diagnosed with pneumonia was substantially lower
among those who were already taking the cholesterol-lowering
drugs than in those who were not.

Previous studies have suggested statins, which are also
available as cheaper generics, may be linked to better outcomes
after bacterial infection. These findings suggest the pills may
help protect against death in patients with pneumonia.

Statins such as Lipitor, Crestor, and a generic called
simvastatin are widely prescribed to lower so-called “bad” or
LDL cholesterol — a risk factor for heart disease — and are
credited with being among the most successful drugs in helping
to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Separate research published in March found that lowering
cholesterol levels could help the body’s immune system fight
infections, a finding that appears to be supported by Tuesday’s
study. [ID:nLDE7270AH]

“Statins are safe, cheap, and an easy intervention in terms
of delivery,” said Ian Douglas, a lecturer in epidemiology at
the LSHTM who led the research.

“Given the potential low number needed to treat to prevent a
death suggested by this study, we believe that a strong case
exists for randomised trials of statins in people with serious
infection to determine if a simple and practical intervention at
the point of diagnosis of pneumonia has a beneficial effect.”

Douglas’s team, whose research was published in the British
Medical Journal, used data from computerised medical records of
doctors’ practices in Britain to identify statin users.

They then matched each statin user — who was aged over 40
when first prescribed a statin between 1995 and 2006 — with up
to five non-statin users for comparison.

Patients with a record of pneumonia were followed for six
months to see if they died, and the researchers found that 13
percent (109 out of 847) of statin users died compared with 20
percent (578 out of 2,927) of non-statin users.

Douglas noted that since this study looked at patients who
were already taking statins when they developed pneumonia, a
full randomised clinical trial was needed to find out whether
starting a statin at the time of diagnosis has a similar effect.
(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Will Waterman)

Study finds statins reduce pneumonia death rates