Statin Not a One Trick Pony

Atorvastatin helps reduce infectious diseases and respiratory illness deaths

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Ever since the lovable Dorothy Hamill skated into a commercial promoting atorvastatin (Lipitor) in the early 2000s, the drug has been known for its remarkable abilities to lower cholesterol.

Then, in 2005, the Food and Drug Administration approved its use in patients with type 2 diabetes for prevention of strokes and heart disease.

Recent data released from the Anglo-Scandinavian Cardiac Outcomes Trial (ASCOT) shows that Lipitor can also reduce death from respiratory illnesses and infections.

"Lipitor may help prevent against infection and respiratory disease."

Professor Peter Sever, from the International Centre for Circulatory Health at Imperial College London, who led the study reports these results are very unexpected. Lipitor benefits for stroke and heart attack prevention are long-established, but their effect in preventing death from other conditions has previously not been determined. Even eight years into this trial, the difference in the two patient groups is quite remarkable.

Sever recommends additional studies to identify the underlying mechanism of death prevention that Lipitor clearly has.

Over 10,000 patients from Britain and Scandinavia with high blood pressure were randomly allocated either Lipitor or a placebo between 1998 and 2000. In 2003, the trial was stopped early because the group of patients taking Lipitor was benefiting so greatly by preventing heart attacks and strokes. At that point, the other group switched from a placebo to Lipitor.

This new analysis of the study finds that the overall death rate is 14 percent lower in the group originally assigned Lipitor. The difference is largely due to less deaths from respiratory illnesses and infections.

British participants who originally were assigned Lipitor had a 36 percent reduction in deaths from respiratory illness and infection. There was a slightly lower death rate from heart disease as well, but it wasn't statistically significant. Cancer rates were the same in both groups.

These findings were presented at the 2011 European Society of Cardiology Congress in Paris and simultaneously published in the European Heart Journal.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 30, 2011
Last Updated:
September 1, 2011