From the Journals

Statins again linked to lower COVID-19 mortality



Among patients hospitalized for COVID-19, those who had been taking statins had a substantially lower risk of death in a new large observational study.

Dr. Lori B. Daniels, professor of medicine and director of cardiovascular intensive care at University of California Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center, San Diego

Dr. Lori B. Daniels

Results showed that use of statins prior to admission was linked to a greater than 40% reduction in mortality and a greater than 25% reduction in risk of developing a severe outcome.

The findings come an analysis of data from the American Heart Association’s COVID-19 Cardiovascular Disease Registry on more than 10,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at 104 hospitals across the United States published in PLoS One.

While several other studies have suggested benefits of statins in COVID-19, this is by far the largest study so far on this topic.

“I would say this is the most reliable study on statins in COVID-19 to date, with the results adjusted for many confounders, including socioeconomic factors and insurance type,” lead author Lori B. Daniels, MD, told this news organization. “However, it still an observational study and therefore falls short of a randomized study. But I would think a randomized study of statins in COVID-19 is probably not feasible, so this study provides excellent data at an observational level.”

After propensity matching for cardiovascular disease, results showed that most of the benefit of statins occurred in patients with known cardiovascular disease.

“While most patients taking statins will have cardiovascular disease, there are also many patients who take these drugs who don’t have heart disease but do have cardiovascular risk factors, such as those with raised cholesterol, or a family history of cardiovascular disease. For [such patients], the effect of statins was also in the same direction but it was not significant. This doesn’t exclude an effect,” noted Dr. Daniels, who is professor of medicine and director of cardiovascular intensive care at the University of California, San Diego.

“We are not saying that everyone should rush out and take a statin if they do not have risk factors for cardiovascular in order to lower their risk of dying from COVID. But if individuals do have an indication for a statin and are not taking one of these dugs this is another good reason to start taking them now,” she added.

The investigators embarked on the study because, although previous observational studies have found that statins may reduce the severity of COVID-19 infection, these studies have been limited in size with mostly single-center or regional studies, and some results have been conflicting. They therefore conducted the current, much larger analysis, in the AHA COVID-19 CVD Registry which systematically collected hospitalized patient–level data in a broad and diverse hospital and patient population across the United States.

For the analysis, the researchers analyzed data from 10,541 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 through September 2020 at 104 U.S. hospitals enrolled in the AHA registry to evaluate the associations between statin use and outcomes.

Most patients (71%) had either cardiovascular disease, hypertension, or both. Prior to admission, 42% of subjects used statins, with 7% being on statins alone and 35% on statins plus antihypertensives. Death (or discharge to hospice) occurred in 2,212 subjects (21%).

Results showed that outpatient use of statins, either alone or with antihypertensives, was associated with a 41% reduced risk of death (odds ratio, 0.59; 95% confidence interval, 0.50-0.69), after adjusting for demographic characteristics, underlying conditions, insurance status, hospital site, and concurrent medications. Statin use was also associated with a roughly 25% lower adjusted odds of developing severe disease.

Noting that patients on statins are also likely to be on antihypertensive medication, the researchers found that the statin benefit on mortality was seen in both patients taking a statin alone (OR, 0.54) and in those taking statins with an antihypertensive medication (OR, 0.60).

Use of antihypertensive drugs was associated with a smaller, albeit still substantial, 27% lower odds of death (OR, 0.73; 95% CI, 0.62-0.87).

In propensity-matched analyses, use of statins and/or antihypertensives was tied to a 32% reduced risk of death among those with a history of CVD and/or hypertension (OR, 0.68; 95% CI, 0.58-0.81). An observed 16% reduction in odds of death with statins and/or antihypertensive drugs among those without cardiovascular disease and/or hypertension was not statistically significant (OR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.58-1.22).


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