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Statins for Influenza. Why Don't We Know if It Works Yet?

Specializes in Too many to list.

Statins for influenza are in the news again, this time because of a paper given at the Annual Meeting of the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA). We'll get to it in a moment, but first a little background.

Statins are cholesterol lowering drugs that are taken by tens of millions of people (including me; I take 20 mg of generic simvastatin a day). The statins are a group of drugs that competitively inhibit an enzyme, 3 hydroxy 3 methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMG-CoA reductase). They are quite effective in lowering cholesterol and have an excellent safety profile (not perfect, but no drug is perfect except the ones that don't do anything, and even then a placebo effect can give an adverse reaction). But these drugs also seem to do a lot of other things beside lower cholesterol, some of which seem to modify the way your immune system works. That's why they are also referred to as immunomodulators. One immune system effect seems to prevent activation of a transcription factor (a signal to your DNA to make specific proteins) called NF-kappaB. Somehow this produces an anti-inflammatory effect.

Discussion continued here: http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure/2009/10/statins_for_influenza_why_dont.php

indigo girl

Specializes in Too many to list.

Statins Revisited


The question as to whether statins - commonly used cholesterol lowering drugs - might play a positive role in the treatment of influenza and pneumonia is one that we've discussed numerous times over the years.

We've seen a see-sawing of opinion, driven by a parade of conflicting studies. Today we've new research to look at, but first a review of the recent past.

Dr. David Fedson was probably the first to champion the idea of using statins for an influenza pandemic. In his paper on the subject, published in July of 2006.


Specializes in OB, HH, ADMIN, IC, ED, QI.

Anecdotal reply: I'm also on the same dose of simvastatin daily and it hasn't inhibited my susceptibility for flu. I've had pneumonia twice in the past 2 years, and may have gotten H1N1 twice - treated before test for it would become positive, in August and October (following seasonal flu vaccination in Sept.).:o


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