Statins are unlikely to have any effect on COVID-19 mortality, according to a study of 4,500 patients hospitalized with the disease.

The cholesterol-reducing drugs have been linked with reduced mortality in patients with various respiratory infections. But studies of their use as a new strategy for reversing COVID-19-related lung inflammation have so far produced mixed results.

To further examine this possibility, investigators analyzed the health records of patients admitted to the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions over a four-month period early in the pandemic. Approximately 13% of study participants were exposed to statins on admission. Users were generally older than non-users, with a mean age of 65 years vs. 45 years.

There was no difference in COVID-19 mortality between patients who were and weren’t treated with statins, reported Petros C. Karakousis, M.D., and colleagues. What’s more, patients taking statins were 18% more likely to have severe COVID-19 illness, as defined by hospital stays of seven days or more and/or the need for invasive mechanical ventilation.

The results appear to support the COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines published by the National Institutes of Health, which recommend against the use of statins for treating COVID-19 outside of clinical trials. But patients who contract the disease while using statins for other purposes should not be advised to discontinue the drug, the guideline authors state. The guidelines are a living document, which may be updated or changed.

The current study was published in PLOS One.