Coronavirus patients in Chinese hospitals who were taking statin drugs fared better than patients who were not taking the cholesterol-lowering drugs, researchers reported Thursday.
Patients taking statins were less likely to die and less likely to need ventilators to help them breathe, the researchers reported in the journal Cell Metabolism. Hospitalized patients taking statins had a 5.5% mortality rate, compared to 6.8% mortality in patients not taking statins.
It’s a reassuring report for some people who are worried that use of the drugs might worsen outcomes.
The large study looking back at the records of nearly 14,000 patients in China’s Hubei province also showed people didn’t have any higher risk of dying or having severe illness if they were taking blood pressure-lowering drugs called angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) along with statins.
There had been some concerns about patients taking the drugs because the virus acts on a receptor -- a kind of molecular doorway into cells -- called ACE2, and these drugs indirectly affect ACE2.
What the study doesn’t show is that taking statins protected the patients. It also couldn’t show if patients with milder cases of coronavirus infection do better or worse if they take statins.
"These results support the safety and potential benefits of statin therapy in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 and provide a rationale for prospective studies to determine whether statins confer protection against COVID-19-associated mortality," Hongliang Li of Wuhan University, who led the study team, said in a statement.