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Cholesterol drug could lower risk of dying from Covid by 37%

Lorraine – Dr Hilary talks about latest findings on statins and diabetes

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Conducting a retrospective study on statin use in patients with COVID-19, researchers assessed the medical records of 38,875 patients hospitalised with COVID-19 between January and September 2020.

They found that of these patients, 30 percent regularly used statins to treat high cholesterol.

Furthermore, those who took statins were 37 percent less likely to die from COVID-19 than those who didn’t take the drugs.

Regular statin users were also less likely to be admitted to intensive care units, develop blood clots, or be transferred to a hospice.

Lead author of the study Dr Ettore Crimi said: “While there is no ‘magic bullet’ to help patients who are very ill with COVID-19, statins decrease inflammation, which may help reduce the severity of the disease.

“Results of our study clearly showed regular statin use is associated with reduced risk of death and improved outcomes in hospitalised COVID-19 patients.”

How do statins help COVID-19 patients?

It is believed statins work by acting as an anti-inflammatory to COVID-19, a virus which causes inflammation and damage to the lungs, kidneys, heart, brain, as well as the cardiovascular system.

Dr Crimi said statins help to “cool the process” and reduce the severity of the disease.

Statins are commonly used by patients to lower high cholesterol levels, they work by reducing how much of the chemical is produced in the liver.

On the study, Dr Crimi added: “This research illustrates the importance of evaluating medications that could be repurposed to help patients in ways other than their intended use.

“Our results suggest statins could be an additional cost-effective solution against COVID-19 disease severity and should be studied further.”

As a result, this study shows how statin use could be beneficial when it comes to COVID-19 mortality, but it does not mean that someone should start taking statins just to reduce their risk of severe Covid.

Furthermore, the NHS has guidance on the caution that should be taken around statins even if they’ve been prescribed.

It said: “Statins can sometimes interact with other medicines, increasing the risk of unpleasant side effects, such as muscle damage. Some types of statin can also interact with grapefruit juice.

“It’s very important to read the information leaflet that comes with your medicine to check if there are any interactions you should be aware of. If in doubt, contact a GP or pharmacist for advice.”

Statins can also cause a range of side effects depending on the statin in question; these include:
• Headache
• Dizziness
• Feeling sick
• Feeling unusually tired or physically weak
• Constipation
• Diarrhoea
• Indigestion
• Farting
• Muscle pain
• Sleep problems
• Low blood platelet count.

It is important to note that this isn’t a full list of side effects which could occur; the full list will be present on the leaflet each packet of statins comes with.

As well as reducing inflammation, statins can also cause it too. The NHS writes: “Statins can occasionally cause muscle inflammation (swelling) and damage. Speak to your doctor if you have muscle pain, tenderness or weakness that cannot be explained – for example, pain that is not caused by physical work.

“Your doctor may carry out a blood test to measure a substance in your blood called creatine kinase (CK), which is released into the blood when your muscles are inflamed or damaged.

“If the CK in your blood is more than five times the normal level, your doctor may advise you to stop taking the statin.”

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