Researchers have come out with findings that point to yet another benefit of statins; improving survival in lung patients.
Statins are widely prescribed for heart patients. They work by lowering the levels of LDL or 'bad' cholesterol that induce deposition of fat, in arteries.
The drugs have also been shown to help prevent diabetes sufferers and people at high risk of heart disease from having a heart attack or stroke.
Pfizer's Lipitor, Merck's Zocor and AstraZeneca's Crestor are among the leading statins. The drugs lower cholesterol by inhibiting an enzyme that controls how much is produced in the body.
The study was carried out by researcher Vidar Soyseth and team from Akershus University Hospital in Norway and published in the European Respiratory Journal.
It reviewed the effects of statins in patients diagnosed with COPD; Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes bronchitis and emphysema, is an incurable illnesses caused by smoking. It begins with a cough that leads to shortness of breath and difficulty breathing as it destroys the lungs.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates COPD will become the third-biggest killer illness worldwide by 2020. It afflicts people over 40 who have been smoking for many years.
It contributes to other illnesses such as pneumonia, heart disease and stroke. There is no cure for COPD but treatments can relieve the symptoms and therapies to slow its progression are being tested.
During the study it was observed that the death rate was reduced by 43 per cent in patients taking statins, and the effects were even more pronounced when the patients were on corticosteroids; medication for alleviating COPD symptoms.
"The present study shows that the use of statins is associated with improved survival after chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbation," says Soyseth.
His team tested the impact of statins on COPD patients because recent studies have shown the drugs reduced deaths among patients with heart disease.
"So we deduced that many COPD sufferers in fact had a sub-clinical form of ischaemic heart disease and statin treatment could improve their survival," Soyseth says.
They monitored the impact of statins on 845 COPD patients whose symptoms had worsened over a three-year period after they had been released from hospital.