(Philadelphia, PA) A statin drug commonly used to lower cholesterol is not effective in reducing the number and severity of flare ups from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to the results of a large multicenter clinical trial designed and directed by Gerard J. Criner, MD, Director of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA.
Dr. Criner, who served as the study's Principal Investigator, will report the results on May 18 at the American Thoracic Society's annual international scientific meeting in San Diego, with simultaneous publication of the findings online in the The New England Journal of Medicine.
The study rigorously tested the hypothesis that statin drugs may be beneficial to persons with COPD because of the drugs' purported anti-inflammatory effect. COPD, an inflammatory disease of the airways and lungs, is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. An estimated 12 million Americans are diagnosed with the disease and nearly 12 million more have impaired lung function, which indicates an underdiagnosis of COPD.
The disease is characterized by acute exacerbations, or flare-ups, which send the patient into episodes of coughing with increases in mucus, shortness of breath, wheezing and a feeling of tightness in the chest. COPD exacerbations can precipitate repeated trips to the emergency department, hospitalizations, disability and a diminished quality of life. Some patients need oxygen to help them breathe.
"This is the first randomized, controlled trial to examine the question of whether the class of drugs called statins (simvastatin) may be useful in preventing COPD exacerbations," said Dr. Criner, Director of Temple's Lung Center and Professor of Medicine at Temple University School of Medicine. Multiple previous studies, all retrospective in design, had suggested a potential significant benefit of statins in improving lung function and decreasin
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Temple University Health System