The most common cholesterol-lowering drugs may improve hospitalized COVID-19 patients’ chances of survival and reduce their risks of progressing to more severe disease, a new study suggests.
An analysis of more than 10,000 people admitted to more than a 140 hospitals across the nation found that a class of medications called statins, together with blood pressure drugs, reduced in-hospital COVID-19 death by 40% among those who took them prior to being admitted.
The reduced risk of death was slightly higher for those taking statins alone (46%) compared to people only taking high blood pressure medication (27%).
The same held true of COVID-19 patients’ odds of severe disease: those only taking statins benefited from a 25% lower risk of developing severe disease and those taking blood pressure medications had a 11% lower risk.
The findings applied primarily to those with high cholesterol and high blood pressure, mostly because people with such health conditions are more likely to take these medications to help treat them.
The benefits remained even after researchers accounted for other medication use, health conditions and patient demographics such as insurance status.
Researchers say the drugs’ benefits may stem from their ability to reduce inflammation in the body, which is known to cause many of the severe outcomes in COVID-19 patients with serious cases.
The study was published Friday in the journal PLOS One.
“Early during the pandemic, there were questions as to whether certain cardiovascular medications might worsen COVID-19 infections,” study lead author Dr. Lori Daniels, professor and director of the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit at the University of California, San Diego Health, said in a statement. “We found that not only are statins and anti-hypertensive medications safe — they may very well be protective in patients hospitalized for COVID, especially among those with a history of hypertension or cardiovascular disease.”
The study aligns with other smaller ones that have also found associations between cholesterol- and blood pressure-lowering drugs and COVID-19 outcomes.
Scientists speculate the drugs are reducing inflammation in the body that would have otherwise caused acute respiratory distress syndrome, heart injury, kidney injury or blood clots — consequences of the disease that have been killing millions around the world.