- Scientists studying the novel coronavirus have found another type of drug that might prevent severe COVID-19 complications and deaths.
- Doctors from Spain found that patients who received statins, a class of drugs used to lower high cholesterol, were less likely to die of COVID-19 complications.
- The researchers say that the continuation of statin therapy during COVID-19 hospitalization can further increase a patient’s chances of survival.
More than 500,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in 10 of the last 14 days, bringing the world’s cumulative caseload to 50.5 million as of Monday morning. The virus is surging in several parts of the world, with the US and Europe driving the new wave of infections. But as the number of daily cases soars to new highs, daily deaths are plateauing between 8,000 and 11,000 deaths per day. That’s still a tremendous number of people dying every day, bringing the global coronavirus death toll to nearly 1.26 million. But doctors can save more people than they could in the early months of the pandemic.
There are no miracle cures and vaccines haven’t yet been approved, but various drugs do show some effectiveness against the virus and can save lives. And now, scientists from Spain think they’ve found another key therapy that might save more lives in the future.
Scientists from the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) and Pere Virgili Institut (IISPV) ran a retrospective observational study to see whether statin therapy impacts COVID-19 mortality.
Statins are a class of drugs that are usually given to people with high cholesterol. People with high cholesterol are more likely to develop fat deposits in blood vessels that can lead to blockages and serious complications, including blood clots that can cause heart attacks and strokes. Genetics, lifestyle, and diet choices directly impact cholesterol levels, and overweight people are likely to have higher cholesterol levels.
Heart disease, diabetes, and obesity are all risk factors for COVID-19, and patients suffering from these conditions might experience life-threatening complications. People who are overweight can also risk a more severe course of COVID-19.
If detected via simple blood tests, high cholesterol can be treated through a combination of dietary changes and medicine. That’s where statins come into play, the kind of drugs doctors will routinely prescribe to lower cholesterol.
The team of Spanish scientists analyzed data from 2,157 patients who were hospitalized for coronavirus. The group had a median age of 67 years and included 1,234 men along with 923 women. In total, there were 353 deaths, and 581 patients were on statin therapy at admittance.
The scientists compared the mortality in the group of patients on statins and a matched non-statin group. They found that fewer people died in the group taking drugs to treat high cholesterol — 19.8% vs. 25.4%. The mortality rate was even lower for patients who continued to take their statins during hospitalization (17.4%). The doctors concluded that statins may reduce COVID-19 deaths by 22%, and the percentage goes up to 25% if the therapy isn’t stopped on admittance. The benefits were more evident in women on the medication.
The doctors explained that patients on statins were also less likely to experience severe complications:
Patients on statins showed a less severe pulmonary effect on X-ray examination and better oxygen parameters (PaFi). Although not statistically significant, the results showed lower severe clinical outcomes, such as ARDS, respiratory and renal failure, and the need for tracheal intubation in the [statin therapy] group.
While the findings are promising, the scientists conclude that “statin therapy should not be discontinued due to the global concern of the pandemic or in patients hospitalized for COVID-19.” The scientists do not say that all hospitalized patients should receive statins on admittance. More research on the matter will certainly be beneficial, and randomized studies could provide more evidence about the efficacy of statin therapy against the novel coronavirus.
The full study is available at this link.