Statins Reduce Pneumonia Related Deaths

Statins can reduce pneumonia risk

Statins, widely used to reduce cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, may now reduce pneumonia related deaths too. A study published in Archives of Internal Medicine showed patients who are hospitalized while taking statin drugs, have a higher survival rate within 90 days of discharge.

The researchers reviewed data from almost 30,000 adults hospitalized with pneumonia. Of those patients, 4.6% were taking statins at the time they were hospitalized. The death rate was lower in the statin users during hospitalization and 90 days after discharge.

The 30-day death rate for the statin group was 10.3% compared to 15.7% for those not taking statins and the benefit continued for 90 days.


Bacterial pneumonia is a common infection and still has a death rate of 10-15%, even with antibiotic treatment. The infection can spread throughout the body and cause a cascade effect on multiple organs due to inflammation and changes in blood flow and clotting.

Prior studies have shown that statins have an anti-inflammatory effect as well as anti blood clotting. There is a possibility that the statin drugs are protective in patients with early infection and prevent the severe complications of infection.

The numeric results from the Archives of Internal Medicine show that "of patients with pneumonia, 1371 (4.6%) were current statin users. Mortality among statin users was lower than among nonusers: 10.3% vs 15.7% after 30 days and 16.8% vs 22.4% after 90 days, corresponding to adjusted 30- and 90-day mortality rate ratios of 0.69 (95% confidence interval, 0.58-0.82) and 0.75 (0.65-0.86). Decreased mortality associated with statin use remained robust in various subanalyses and in a supplementary analysis using propensity score matching. In contrast, former use of statins and current use of other prophylactic cardiovascular drugs were not associated with decreased mortality from pneumonia. In statin users, adjusted relative risk for bacteremia was 1.07 (95% confidence interval, 0.69-1.67) and for pulmonary complications was 0.69 (0.42-1.14)."

Dr. Jeffrey Jacobson, assistant professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, is beginning to look at whether statins should be used to help treat infection. He is leading the trials that will look at simvastatin (Zocor) vs. placebo in treating patients with severe infections and sepsis. It is hypothesized that the anti-inflammatory properties of the statin drug can protect the blood vessels and prevent vascular leakage, one of the severe sequelae of infection that leads to death.

Statins include atorvastatin (Lipitor), pravastatin (Pravachol), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Mevacor), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and several others. Clinical studies have shown that statins significantly reduce the risk of heart attack and death in patients with coronary artery disease. This study points to other beneficial effects of statins that deserve more research.