Statins may benefit people suffering from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a serious lung condition that results in scaring of the lung tissue. Over time this scarring gets severe and makes it difficult to breathe and get oxygen to your body. There is currently no known cause of the disease and it is usually fatal if no lung transplant is performed. Currently IPF is estimated to affect between 14 and 42.7 people per 100,000 in the US. There are currently two treatments for the management of IPF but there is still a great need to develop new therapies that help prevent or reverse the disease progress. This is where statins may be of use. Typically considered as anti-cholesterol drugs, statins have gained more attention recently for their anti-inflammatory properties and as such have become the focus of many research groups hoping to utilize this already approved, safe drug for the treatment of many different diseases. A paper published in the journal Thorax investigated the use of statins in patients with IPF and if they are able to slow the disease progression.

The study looked at patients from a clinical trial for the now approved IPF drug pirfenidone and collected data from the patients receiving placebo who were also taking statins at the time. These patients were likely taking their statins for a heart condition and so it gave the researchers a readily available platform to look at the severity of the IPF in these patients. In total there were 624 patients in the placebo group, 276 of them using statins. Following 1 year in the clinical trial, the researchers measured the progression of the disease, mortality rate, hospitalization rate, declines in the lung function (ability to breath), and changes in the 6-minute walk distance (measure of exercise capacity). They found that people in the placebo group who were taking statins had lower risk of dying and had a smaller decline in their exercise capacity than those not taking statins. They also had a lower risk of being hospitalized for IPF related complications.

This research suggests that statins may be beneficial to people with IPF but a clinical trial specifically designed to look at this hypothesis is needed. We don’t know how much of the effect we are seeing is due to the statin use and we don’t know what effect the dosage of statin has on the outcomes. If a clinical trial can show that statin use can improve the quality of life and reduce the mortality of people suffering from IPF then this provides an inexpensive means to control and maybe reverse the disease.

Photo Credit: Flickr Hey Paul Studios

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