People with COVID-19 and diabetes who were given common cholesterol-lowering drug while in hospital were more likely to survive, researchers have said.

Researchers who collected health data from more than 4,200 people who were admitted to the Montefiore Medical Center in New York had a higher mortality rate if they took statins.

Dr Omar Saeed, attending cardiologist at Montefiore Medical Center and assistant professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said: “In this analysis involving a large cohort of hospitalised patients with COVID-19, statin use was associated with reduced in-hospital mortality in patients with diabetes.

“This observation was made despite older age, higher prevalence of hypertension and atherosclerotic heart disease in diabetic statin users.”

The average age of each person who was admitted to the hospital was about 65. Around 32% were given a statin during their stay. Overall, the death rate was slightly lower among those who were given the medication when compared to those were not.

Of the 4,252 who were admitted to hospital, 2,266 had diabetes. A total of 43% were given a statin and again, mortality rates were much lower when compared to those who were not given the drugs.

Dr Saeed said: “Statins are known to have anti-inflammatory effects that are clinically evident through a reduction in inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein and these effects are also apparent in diabetics.

“In our cohort, diabetics in the statin group presented with lower inflammatory markers and had reduced mortality. In contrast, there was no difference in inflammatory markers at presentation in nondiabetics either on or off statins.

“Presuming that in-hospital statin administration was indicative of outpatient usage and adherence, one might speculate that statin therapy blunted the COVID-19 inflammatory response pre-admission as well as during hospitalisation, and improved survival was related to ongoing chronic statin use. This hypothesis would have to be prospectively tested.”

The findings have been published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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