Do statins help treat COVID-19?
Yes, statins can lower the risk of death in patients with COVID-19, who also have a history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and hypertension. If you have these conditions and have one of the indications the statins are prescribed for, then continuing statins can lower your risk of death from COVID-19.
What are statins?
Statins is the more common name for a group of medications that are actually called HMG CoA reductase inhibitors. They are used to lower more dangerous cholesterol (LDL), increase the more useful cholesterol (HDL) and to lower triglycerides blood levels.
They help lower the risk of stroke, heart attack, and other heart complications in people with medical conditions like diabetes and coronary heart disease.
What is the link between COVID-19 and statins?
COVID-19 patients have a risk of severe complications including lung problems, heart problems, blood clots, with deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolism or cerebrovascular events, respiratory failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
Patients who already have cardiovascular disease and hypertension, and then get COVID-19 have a larger risk of developing severe COVID-19 complications, when compared to patients who do not have these conditions.
It is the patients who already have heart disease, hypertension and diabetes that benefit most from being on statins, if they have COVID-19.
In one COVID-19 study the group of patients (with heart disease, hypertension and diabetes) who took a statin had a 30% decrease in chance of death, when compared to patients who didn’t take statins and had similar medical history.
In the same study they grouped COVID-19 patients who had no history of cardiovascular disease or hypertension into two groups: one group of patients were on a statin and/or a blood pressure medicine and the other group patients did not take either type of medication. The patients who were on a statin with or without blood pressure medicine had a 16% lower chance of death when compared to the group not on statins or blood pressure medications. However this was not a clinically significant difference. Therefore, statins only reduce the chance of death with COVID-19, in a statistically significant way, for patients who currently have cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes.
It is thought that statins may stabilize the cardiovascular disease, that they have been prescribed the statin for, so that the patient is less likely to suffer these complications of COVID-19 and therefore the patients are more likely to recover from COVID-19.
How do statins help lower COVID-19 complications?
Statins are thought to help reduce the severity of COVID-19 due to its anti-thrombotic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral effects and its ability to change immune response.
Anti-thrombotic: statins can have an anticoagulant effect which lowers the chance of having blood clots, heart attacks and strokes.
Anti-inflammatory and change in immune response: when you have an infection you have an inflammatory response and an immune response, but sometimes the body can over respond which may cause more damage than good. This can be the case in severe COVID-19. Statins can protect against inflammation and excessive immune response.
Antiviral effects: statins can reduce the amount of virus replication in cells by binding and blocking to a specific coronavirus enzyme (Mpro protease).
Related information: COVID-19: Prevention & Investigational Treatments
- Patients who have cardiovascular disease and hypertension, who are on statins and blood pressure medicines before and while being in hospital with COVID-19, had a 30 % lower chance of progressing to severe COVID-19 and death.
- Patients who do not have cardiovascular disease and hypertension, who were taking statins and blood pressure lowering medicine before and while being in hospital, had a 16% lower chance of death when compared to a group with the same health history who did not take statins. However this was not a clinically significant difference.
- Statins are thought to improve the chance of surviving COVID-19 in patients with cardiovascular disease and hypertension due to the statins ability to change immune response and its anti-thrombotic, anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects.
- Relation of prior statin and anti-hypertensive use to severity of disease among patients hospitalized with COVID-19: Findings from the American Heart Association’s COVID-19 Cardiovascular Disease Registry. [Accessed September 14, 2021] https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0254635
- Large Study Confirms Statins Reduce COVID-19 Severity: [Accessed September 14, 2021] https://www.dicardiology.com/content/large-study-confirms-statins-reduce-covid-19-severity
- Statins and the COVID-19 main protease: in silico evidence on direct interaction: [Accessed September 14, 2021] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32399094/
- Improved COVID-19 ICU admission and mortality outcomes following treatment with statins: a systematic review and meta-analysis: [Accessed September 14, 2021] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8130467/
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