Washington: Cholesterol-lowering statins not only slashes death rates from heart disease and strokes, but also protect people from serious infections and respiratory disease, say researchers from researchers at Imperial College London.
The death rate among patients prescribed a statin in a major trial that ended in 2003 is still lower than those given a placebo, even though most participants in both groups have been taking statins ever since.
In the lipid-lowering arm of the trial, over 10,000 patients in the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia with high blood pressure were randomly allocated either atorvastatin or placebo between 1998 and 2000. In 2003, the trial was stopped early because the statin proved to be highly beneficial in preventing heart attacks and strokes. Since then, most participants from both groups have been taking statins.
The new analysis looked at the number and cause of deaths among the 4,605 participants in the ASCOT, the Anglo-Scandinavian Cardiac Outcomes Trial, who are based in the UK. After 11 years’ follow-up, overall mortality is 14 per cent lower in the group originally assigned atorvastatin, due largely to fewer deaths from infection and respiratory illness.
“This result is very unexpected,” said Professor Peter Sever, from the International Centre for Circulatory Health at Imperial College London, who led the study.
“The benefits of statins for preventing heart attacks and strokes are well-established, but after long-term follow-up the most significant effects seem to be on deaths from other causes. It’s quite remarkable that there is still this difference between the two groups, eight years after the trial finished.
“Some studies have suggested that statins protect people against death from infectious diseases such as pneumonia. More research is needed to explain how these drugs might have unforeseen actions that prevent deaths from other illnesses,” added Sever.
The results have been published in the European Heart Journal.