Can Statins Reduce Deaths in Patients with Influenza?

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Flu Treatment: Further Studies Needed

Principal Author, Meredith L.Vandermeer, MPH. Photo courtesy of Meredith Vandermeer

How feasible is doing a randomized control trial (RCT) using this drug on flu patients who have normal cholesterol levels? Decoded Science interviewed principal author Meredith Vandermeer, who said:

It is more realistic to conduct a randomized control trial (RCT) on a population not currently on statins than on a population with normal cholesterol levels.  The main advantage of an RCT is that it will control for factors such as cholesterol levels as subjects with varying levels of cholesterol will be randomly selected into the both the statin and placebo group assuring that the differences between the two groups are due to chance. However, that said, it would still be difficult to find a statin-naïve population for this trial. In 2005, 29.7 million people in the U.S. purchased statins (Medical Expenditure Panel Survey by Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality) and that number has surely only gone up since. During the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, a researcher with Vanderbilt University began an RCT to look at statin use among patients admitted to the ICU following influenza complications (clinicaltrials.gov) and this study was terminated due to inability to recruit enough patients, albeit the inclusion criteria of ICU admission did narrow the study population significantly.  An RCT will be difficult to conduct but is the necessary next step for this area of research.”

Preventing Flu Deaths with Statins

This study provides clues into new ways to prevent flu deaths. Until more conclusive studies can be done to provide strong evidence for these observations regarding the therapeutic value of statins for influenza, however these drugs will continue to be used mainly for the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease related to high blood cholesterol.

References

Meredith L.Vandermeer, et al. Association Between Use of Statins and Mortality Among Patients Hospitalized With Laboratory-Confirmed Influenza Virus Infections: A Multistate Study. (2011). JID 2012:205. Accessed December 17, 2011.

Frost F.J., Petersen H., Tollestrup K., Skipper B. Influenza and COPD mortality protection as pleiotropic, dose-dependent effects of statins. (Chest 2007). 131:1006–12.

Kwong J.C., Li P., Redelmeier D.A. Influenza morbidity and mortality in elderly patients receiving statins: a cohort study. PLoS One. (2009). 4:e8087.

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