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Statins don't lower risk of pneumonia in elderly
Date:6/16/2009

SEATTLE Taking popular cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, such as Lipitor (atorvastatin), does not lower the risk of pneumonia. That's the new finding from a study of more than 3,000 Group Health patients published online on June 16 in advance of the British Medical Journal's June 20 print issue.

"Prior research based on automated claims data had raised some hopeand maybe some hypefor statins as a way to prevent and treat infections including pneumonia," said Sascha Dublin, MD, PhD, a physician at Group Health and assistant investigator at Group Health Center for Health Studies. "But when we used medical records to get more detailed information about patients, our findings didn't support that approach."

In fact, Dublin's population-based case-control study found that pneumonia risk was, if anything, slightly higher (26%) in people using a statin than in those not using any; and this extra risk was even higher (61%) for pneumonia severe enough to require being hospitalized.

"As a doctor, I'm a fan of statins for what they've been proven to do: lowering cholesterol and risk of heart disease and stroke in people who've had either disease or are at risk for them," said Dublin. Statins are HMG coenzyme A reductase inhibitors, which also include Zocor (simvastatin) and Mevacor (lovastatin). This class of medications lessens inflammation, which plays a role in infections.

"But now we and some others have found that statins may have gotten some unearned credit for health benefits that they don't actually have, including preventing pneumonia," Dublin said.

Suggestions from prior research had led to calls for expensive randomized controlled trials of statins to prevent or treat infection. "But our study indicates that such trials would be an ill-advised use of limited research funds at this time," she added.

Why the discrepancy between this new study and earlier ones? "Healthy-user bias is one reason," said
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Contact: Rebecca Hughes
hughes.r@ghc.org
206-287-2055
Group Health Cooperative Center for Health Studies
Source:Eurekalert

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