THURSDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs don't lower the risk of pneumonia in the elderly, according to a study that appears to dash hopes for this use of the drugs.
"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," Dr. Sascha Dublin, an assistant investigator at the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle, said in a news release from the organization. "But when we used medical records to get more detailed information about patients, our findings didn't support that approach."
Dublin and her colleagues looked at the records of more than 3,000 people, ages 65 to 94, who were relatively healthy and had intact immune systems. They found that pneumonia risk was actually 26 percent higher among those using statins and even higher (61 percent) for pneumonia severe enough to require hospitalization.
The study appears online and in the June 20 issue of the British Medical Journal.
"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," Dublin said. "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."
The American Lung Association has more about pneumonia.
SOURCE: Group Health, news release, June 16, 2009
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