Studies using statin medication to treat patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) failed to show any respiratory benefit to patients and as a result were halted early. The research was conducted after observational studies raised the possibility that the cholesterol-lowering medication might improve outcomes in people with these life-threatening lung conditions.
The COPD study involved 885 patients with COPD who were given either simvastatin (Zocor) or placebo. Patients who were currently taking statins were excluded from the study. After 641 days of follow-up, researchers found no significant difference in the rate of COPD exacerbations or in the time it took the first exacerbation. There were also no differences in mortality, the rate of nonfatal serious adverse events, quality of life, or lung function, however, LDL levels were reduced in patients treated with simvastatin.
The ARDS study involved 745 patients with sepsis-associated ARDS who were treated with rosuvastatin (Crestor) or a placebo. Researchers found no significant difference in in-hospital mortality, nor was there a difference in the number of ventilator-free days.
Even if statins had shown more promising results for patients with these serious lung diseases, the benefits would have to be weighed against the risks. Statin drugs, which also include the widely prescribed Lipitor, have been associated with side effects including liver damage and muscle injury. They can also increase blood sugar levels, which can lead to type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition in which puts one at greater risk for heart disease, kidney disease, dementia and neuropathy.