Statins help prevent influenza deaths, research suggests

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People hit hard by seasonal flu strains have a higher likelihood of survival if they're already taking statins for managing cholesterol, according to a new report.

The Oregon Public Health Division study of 2,800 patients hospitalized during the 2007-2008 flu season found those taking the cholesterol drugs were twice as likely to survive that those not taking the drugs. Much of the damage caused by influenza arises from inflammation—a condition statins have long been known to reduce, according to researchers. If further studies reveal statins to be a good treatment for influenza, they could provide a cheap alternative to more expensive treatments like Tamiflu, according to the report.

Each flu season, 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 die from influenza-related complications. Up to 90% of those are seniors. The report was presented Oct. 29 at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America in Philadelphia.