CHEST: Statins May Retard Lung Deterioration in Smokers

October 25, 2006

SALT LAKE CITY -- Smokers and ex-smokers treated with statins for cardiovascular disease had less of a decline in lung function than comparable patients not taking statin, researchers reported here.

SALT LAKE CITY, Oct. 25 -- Smokers and ex-smokers treated with statins for cardiovascular disease had less of a decline in lung function than comparable non-statin patients, researchers reported here.

In a retrospective review of 303 ex-smokers and 182 current smokers, about half in each group taking statins, smokers and ex-smokers not taking statins had an average decline in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) of 88 ml/year of air, found Walid G. Younis, M.D., of the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.

But patients who were taking statins had an average decline of only 12 ml/year, he said at CHEST 2006, the meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians.

After age 30, lung function normally declines at the rate of 30 ml/year on the FEV1 test, he noted. The difference between 12 ml and 30 ml was not significant, whereas the difference between 12 ml and 88 ml was highly significant (P

The data emerged from a review of medical records of 485 patients at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Oklahoma City in 2005. All patients had had at least two pulmonary function tests performed at least six months apart. Patients diagnosed with asthma as well as those who had never smoked were excluded from the study.

Dr. Younis and colleagues also compared rates of admission to the emergency department. They found that patients taking statins who had obstructive lung disease (as diagnosed through lung performance tests) had a 35% reduced risk of required emergency department visits or subsequent hospitalization (P=0.02).

The reasons why statins may reduce lung injury are not known. However, Diane Stover, M.D., of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, commented, "We have found that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease involves inflammatory processes. It is possible that statins, which have anti-inflammatory properties, have an impact on these processes in the lungs as well as elsewhere in the body."

Dr. Younis cautioned that taking statins doesn't mean that patients can continue to smoke with impunity. "We saw no difference in lung cancer or mortality between the patients who smoked and were on statins or not on statins," he said.