Cholesterol-lowering drugs may reduce mortality for influenza patients

December 16, 2011

Statins, traditionally known as cholesterol-lowering drugs, may reduce mortality among patients hospitalized with influenza, according to a new study released online by the Journal of Infectious Diseases.

It is the first published observational study to evaluate the relationship between statin use and mortality in hospitalized patients with laboratory-confirmed influenza virus infection, according to Vanderbilt's William Schaffner, M.D., professor and chair of Preventive Medicine.

"We may be able to combine statins with antiviral drugs to provide better treatment for patients seriously ill with influenza," said Schaffner, who co-authored the study led by Meredith Vandermeer, MPH, of the Oregon Public Health Division.

Researchers studied adults who were hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza from 2007-2008 to evaluate the association between patients who were prescribed statins and influenza-related deaths.

Among 3,043 hospitalized patients with laboratory-confirmed influenza, 33 percent were given statin medications prior to or during hospitalization. After adjusting for various factors, researchers found that patients not receiving statins were almost twice as likely to die from influenza as those who received the medication.

Schaffner stressed that receiving the influenza vaccine each year is still the best defense against influenza. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between 5 percent and 20 percent of U.S. residents get the flu each year, and more than 20,000 persons are hospitalized for flu-related complications.
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Vanderbilt University Medical Center

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