Statins: How the drug prevents heart attacks and strokes
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A study, led by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, found that statins and other anti-hypertension medicines stabilise underlying diseases, making patients more likely to recover from COVID-19. Researchers stated that patients with a good reason to take statins, such as history of cardiovascular diseases or high blood pressure, could benefit from statins’ ability to inhibit the virus.
Statins, one of the most widely prescribed drugs in the UK, are taken by nearly eight million people to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol levels.
The Centers for Disease Control estimated that 93 percent of patients who use a cholesterol-lowering drug use a statin.
The drug’s ACE2 receptor – the regulatory target of statins – helps control blood pressure. In 2020, scientists discovered that COVID-19 virus used the same receptor to enter lung cells.
Lori Daniels, director of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at UC San Diego Health, said: “When faced with this virus at the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of speculation surrounding certain medications that affect the body’s ACE2 receptor, including Statins, and whether they may influence COVID-19 risk.
“At the time, we thought that statins may inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infections through their known anti-inflammatory effects and binding capabilities, which could potentially stop progression of the virus.”
Using data from the American Heart Association’s COVID-19 Cardiovascular Disease Registry, the research team at UC San Diego applied their original findings to a larger cohort; 10,541 Covid patients admitted at 104 different hospitals over a nine month period.
“In doing so, we confirmed our prior findings that statins are associated with a reduced risk of death from COVID-19”, added Daniels.
During the initial study, which included 170 anonymised medical records from patients receiving care at UC San Diego Health, researchers found that statin use prior to hospital admissions for COVID-19 resulted in a more than 50 percent reduction in risk of developing severe infection.
Daniels said: “As with any observational study, we cannot say for certain that the associations we describe between statin use and reduced severity of COVID-19 infection are definitely due to the statins themselves.
“We hope that our research findings are an incentive for patients to continue with their medication.”
Doctors may prescribe a statin medication to patietns with a family history of heart disease, or a long-term health condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, or type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
Statins can react unpredictably with certain other substances, potentially increasing the risk of serious side effects, such as muscle damage.
Some medicines that can interact with some types of statin include:
- Certain antibiotics and antifungals
- Certain HIV medications
- Warfarin – a medicine commonly used to prevent blood clots
- Ciclosporin – a medicine that suppresses the immune system and is used to treat a wide range of conditions, including psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis
The NHS recommends having a blood test to ensure you liver is in a relatively good condition before taking statins.
The drug should not be taken if you have severe liver disease or if blood tests suggest that your liver may not be working properly.
For full details of cautions and interactions relating to specific medicine, contact a GP or pharmacist.
More than 50,000 daily COVID-19 cases were reported in the UK for the first time since mid-January, on Saturday.
The spike in infection rates comes as restrictions are lifted across the UK today.
The number of people being admitted to hospital with Covid is also rising – but at a much lower rate than during previous waves thanks to the impact of vaccinations.
More than 46.1 million in the UK have had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while more than 35.5 million have had both doses, according to the latest figures.
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