— 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!
Oxygen can wake up dormant bacteria for antibiotic attacks
08.12.2016 | Penn State
NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology
07.12.2016 | Nanyang Technological University
In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.
Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
08.12.2016 | Life Sciences
08.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
08.12.2016 | Materials Sciences