Statin Use in COPD

Results of study on statins in COPD reported in the June 5, 2014, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine

Many of us take a statin medication to lower cholesterol in the blood because high levels are a risk factor for heart disease. The different brand names of statins are: Crestor; Lescol; Livalo; Mevacor; Lipitor; and Zocor.  Statins are also considered to have anti-inflammatory effects as evident by lowering C-reactive protein (CRP) in the blood.  Some studies have suggested that statins might be beneficial for those with COPD by reducing exacerbations (sudden worsening of symptoms) and by slowing the decline in lung function. In a recent study (called STATCOPE) a daily dose of 40 mg of simvastatin (Lipitor) was compared with placebo (inactive medication) in a total of 885 patients with COPD.  The study lasted from 12 to 36 months in 45 different testing centers.  The results showed that simvastatin did not reduce the rate of exacerbations or the time to first exacerbation in those with COPD who were at high risk for such events.  Also, statin use had no effect on lung function or quality of life. So, if you are taking a statin for lowering your cholesterol, you should continue to do so.  Unfortunately, it will not help your COPD.

Donald A. Mahler, M.D. is Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth in Hanover, New Hampshire. He works as a pulmonary physician at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, NH, where he is Director of Respiratory Services.