Statins reduce deaths from infection and respiratory illness, eight years on from trial

August 28, 2011, Imperial College London

The death rate among patients prescribed a statin in a major trial that ended in 2003 is still lower than those given a placebo, even though most participants in both groups have been taking statins ever since. ASCOT, the Anglo-Scandinavian Cardiac Outcomes Trial, was stopped early because the statin was so effective at preventing heart attacks and strokes, but a new analysis has shown that eight years on, the most significant difference between the groups is a reduction in deaths from infection and respiratory illness.

The latest findings, from researchers at Imperial College London, were presented at the Congress in Paris today and simultaneously published in the .

In the lipid-lowering arm of the trial, over 10,000 patients in the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia with were randomly allocated either or placebo between 1998 and 2000. In 2003, the trial was stopped early because the proved to be highly beneficial in preventing heart attacks and strokes. Since then, most participants from both groups have been taking statins.

The new analysis looked at the number and cause of deaths among the 4,605 participants in the ASCOT trial who are based in the UK. After 11 years' follow-up, overall mortality is 14 per cent lower in the group originally assigned atorvastatin, due largely to fewer deaths from infection and respiratory illness.

"This result is very unexpected," said Professor Peter Sever, from the International Centre for Circulatory Health at Imperial College London, who led the study. "The benefits of statins for preventing heart attacks and strokes are well-established, but after long-term follow-up the most significant effects seem to be on deaths from other causes. It's quite remarkable that there is still this difference between the two groups, eight years after the trial finished.

"Some studies have suggested that statins protect people against death from infectious diseases such as pneumonia. More research is needed to explain how these drugs might have unforeseen actions that prevent deaths from other illnesses."

Amongst UK participants, in the 11 years since the trial began, 460 of the original statin group have died, compared with 520 of the placebo group. The difference is largely explained by a 36 per cent reduction in deaths from infection and respiratory illness. Deaths from cardiovascular disease were also lower in the original statin group, but the difference was not statistically significant. There was no difference in deaths from cancer.

The initial results of the ASCOT lipid arm had a major influence on subsequent guidelines recommending the use of statins for people at risk of heart disease, including those produced by NICE in the UK. Another arm of the trial comparing different combinations of blood pressure-lowering drugs also had an important impact on clinical practice.

More information: P.S. Sever et al. 'The Anglo-Scandinavian Cardiac Outcomes Trial: 11 year mortality follow-up of the lipid-lowering arm in the UK.' European Heart Journal, August 28 2011.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...

Place of residence linked to heart failure risk

January 9, 2018
Location. Location. Location.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.