Taking statins may cut the risk of dying from Covid by 12 per cent, a new study has suggested.
Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden followed 963,876 residents of Stockholm over the age of 45 between March and November 2020.
During that time, 2,545 individuals died from Covid – including 765, 0.5 per cent, of the statin users and 1,780, 0.2 per cent, of the non-users.
Even after accounting for the general poorer health of statin users, their higher age and social factors that might raise the risk of Covid, those taking the pills were less likely to die.
“We are not certain about the precise mechanisms by which this may occur,” said Viktor Ahlqvist, the study’s co-author and a doctoral student at the department of global public health at the Karolinska Institute.
“Nonetheless, it is not unreasonable to speculate that as statins improve cardiovascular health they also protect against Covid-19 – especially as poor cardiovascular health is a well-established risk factor for severe Covid-19.”
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‘A moderate prophylactic effect’
Statins are used to lower the cholesterol level in the blood and are a common preventative treatment in patients at high risk of cardiovascular events.
They are prescribed to about eight million adults in Britain, suggesting that at a population level, statins may have played an important role in preventing deaths in the pandemic.
“Our results suggest that statin treatment can have a moderate prophylactic effect on Covid-19 mortality,” added Rita Bergqvist, the study’s other co-author, and a medical student at the Karolinska Institute.
Further tests needed
Commenting on the research, British experts said that statins may work by reducing inflammation in the blood vessels.
However, they said a randomised controlled trial was needed to find out whether the reduction in deaths was caused by the drugs.
Tim Chico, professor of cardiovascular medicine and honorary consultant cardiologist at the University of Sheffield, said: “This study does not prove that statins reduce death in Covid-19, but does provide some supportive clues.
“It observes that people prescribed statins were less likely to die than similar people. However, this does not prove the statins caused the reduced death rates. To do so needs a randomised controlled trial.
“There has been far too much speculation and premature confidence about which drugs are useful for Covid, such as hydroxychloroquine. It’s important to learn from this and to be suitably measured in how we describe these results.”
The research was published in the journal PLOS Medicine.