Individuals taking common cholesterol-lowering drugs, known as statins, prior to hospitalization for coronavirus (COVID-19), were exposed to substantially reduced risk of death and severe COVID-19, particularly in those with history of comorbid health conditions such as heart disease or high blood pressure, according to a study published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE or PLOS One.

The study examined the relationship between use of medications to control cholesterol or blood pressure levels, and the risk of death among people who were hospitalized due to COVID-19. The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is responsible for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which is causing worldwide morbidity and mortality.

Statins have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects that may reduce the severity of COVID-19, in which organ dysfunction is mediated by severe inflammation.

According to the study, statins and anti-hypertensive medications were not only found to be safe, but they can actually be protective in patients hospitalized for COVID, especially among those with a history of hypertension or cardiovascular disease. It was associated with 32 percent lower odds of death among such patients.

The study results have encouraged people prescribed with cholesterol and/or blood pressure medicines to continue taking these medications during the duration of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

In an analysis of more than 10,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients across the United States, the use of such drugs, prior to hospitalization, was associated with a more than 40 percent reduction in in-hospital death, and a greater than 25 percent reduction in the risk of developing a severe outcome.

The analysis compared similar patients who did and did not use statins or anti-hypertensive medication, among those both with and without these underlying comorbid health conditions. This study used data from the American Heart Association’s COVID-19 Cardiovascular Disease Registry.

The results of the study are consistent with most prior studies, though most of these have been small or regional. A single-center U.S. observational study of 170 subjects found a 50 percent reduction in severe COVID-19 among patients with statin use prior to hospitalization, consistent with these findings.

A larger, regional study from Hubei Province, China described an approximately 40 percent reduction in mortality with statin use.

Similarly, a study based on a U.S. hospital claims database that covered 21,676 hospitalizations with any COVID-19 diagnosis across 276 hospitals, found that in-hospital statin use was associated with a 46 percent reduction in in-hospital mortality.

A few studies have failed to find an association between statin use and COVID-19 severity. However, these were either very small studies, or based upon administrative data which can be less granular.

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