However, Novack discounts this explanation. "The randomized nature of our trial of more than 17,000 men and women -- study participants were not aware whether they are treated with statin or placebo -- excludes this possibility," he said.
"The effect observed in our trial is modest as compared to the observational studies, but appears to be robust," he added. "These results can be used as a basis for the further investigations."
Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said that "this study shows a very modest, maybe minimal decrease in pneumonia in people who use statins. It's hard to say this is significant."
Horovitz added, "I don't think you would start somebody on statins just because it might reduce their possibility of pneumonia. You would give them a vaccine against pneumococcal pneumonia. But you don't put them on a statin if you want to reduce pneumonia."
And Horovitz noted, the study doesn't take into account whether or not any of the participants had been vaccinated, which could throw the figures off.
"If somebody is on a statin and they have a slightly less chance of getting pneumonia that's great, but it wouldn't be a reason to initiate statins," he stressed.
Another expert, Dr. David Friedman, a cardiologist at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y., commented that "there has been some thought that statins act as an anti-inflammatory above and beyond cholesterol lowering."
However, statins aren't benign -- they do have some side effects. "So it's premature for anyone to start taking statins to prevent pneumonia," Friedman said.
Two study co-authors have received consultation fees and funding from AstraZeneca, the makers of Crestor.
For more about statins, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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