NEW DELHI: Can statinscholesterol-lowering drugs — help reduce severity of the disease in Covid-19 patients? At least two recent studies, published in American Journal of Cardiology (AJC) and The EMBO Journal, support this theory.
Statins are widely available and cheap, costing around Rs 5 to Rs 50 per tablet, depending on the dosage. The AJC study published on September 15 analysed the outcome of a study of 170 patients hospitalized for treatment of Covid-19 at UC San Diego Medical Centre in California, US. It showed use of statins prior to admission was associated with a more than 50% reduction in risk of developing severe Covid-19.
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The researchers concluded that statin use was also associated with a considerably faster recovery. “There is some biologic plausibility for a protective role of statins in Covid-19 through known anti-inflammatory and immune-modulator effects as well as via upregulation of ACE2 and direct effects on the virus,” the ACJ study noted.
The EMBO study, which has been accepted for publication after full peer review, analysed the biologic or chemical events responsible for or associated with the effect observed. The researchers found that the CH25H gene, which is involved in cholesterol and lipid metabolism, had anti-coronavirus activity. It blocked the process of fusion of the virus that causes Covid-19 with the cell membrane.

Statins act by removing cholesterol from blood vessels. Dr Anoop Misra, chairman of Fortis C-Doc Hospital, said the cell membranes in our body have cholesterol. “The second study elucidates how statins may help in removing cholesterol from these membranes which blocks the fusion of the virus with the cell membrane, thus blocking its entry,” he said. “This is a very important study. Most heart patients and even diabetics take statins regularly and the research shows that taking the drugs regularly may reduce severity of infection even if they get Covid-19,” Dr Misra added.
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Dr Rommel Tickoo, associate director, department of medicine at Max Saket, said even a modest reduction in mortality from an inexpensive and widely available drug would be very helpful. “Patients with Covid-19 have an increased risk of cardiovascular complications and thrombotic events. Statins are known for their anti-inflammatory, anti-thrombotic and immunomodulatory effects. They may have a potential role as an adjunctive therapy to mitigate endothelial dysfunction and dysregulated inflammation in patients with Covid-19 infection,” he said.
There is no cure for Covid-19 as yet. A vaccine to prevent the disease is also not available. In such a scenario, repurposing of existing drugs is being seen as the best shot to reduce morbidity and mortality due to the viral illness which has affected millions globally.
Though many drugs have been repurposed to treat Covid-19, a major success in this field has been achieved with the use of a steroid called dexamethasone.

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