— 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 hope—and maybe some hype—for 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 Dublin. In other words, compared to people who don't take statins, those who do may be healthier and have healthier habits that lower their risks of unrelated diseases such as pneumonia. And that's just what she found: Study patients who were on statins were less frail or disabled and also more likely to be vaccinated against flu or pneumococcal pneumonia. They were less likely to smoke, to have dementia, or to need help with bathing or walking.
Unlike the previous research on statins and pneumonia, Dublin's study made great efforts to control for this bias, including reviewing medical records in detail for every study subject. It confirmed that every pneumonia event was a true case of pneumonia, which prior studies rarely did. And it focused on relatively healthy elderly people. All had intact immune systems and none lived in a nursing home. She studied the same 65- to 94-year-old patients, with their records coded to protect their privacy, as in earlier Group Health research, published in The Lancet in 2008. That work showed the flu vaccine didn't protect the elderly from pneumonia as much as had been thought.
"We did an old-fashioned 'chart review,'" said Dublin. "By reading the text in the medical records, you catch crucial details."
Dublin holds a Paul B. Beeson Career Development Award from the National Institute on Aging, American Federation for Aging Research, John A. Hartford Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, and Starr Foundation. Group Health Center for Health Studies internal funds covered the data collection and analysis.
Dublin's study co-authors were Michael L. Jackson, PhD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta; Noel S. Weiss, MD, DrPH, of the University of Washington; and Jennifer C. Nelson, PhD, Eric B. Larson, MD, MPH, and Lisa A. Jackson, MD, MPH, of Group Health Center for Health Studies.
Group Health Center for Health Studies
Founded in 1947, Group Health Cooperative is a Seattle-based, consumer-governed, nonprofit health care system. The Group Health Center for Health Studies is Group Health's research institute. For 25 years, the Center has conducted nonproprietary public-interest research on preventing, diagnosing, and treating major health problems. Government and private research grants provide its main funding.
Rebecca Hughes | EurekAlert!
Biofilm discovery suggests new way to prevent dangerous infections
23.05.2017 | University of Texas at Austin
Another reason to exercise: Burning bone fat -- a key to better bone health
19.05.2017 | University of North Carolina Health Care
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.
In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...
Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
17.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.05.2017 | Life Sciences
23.05.2017 | Medical Engineering