Possible Benefits of Cholesterol Medicine

If you use statin therapy to manage high cholesterol and also happen to suffer from asthma, you could find that your breathing may benefit.

This finding was released at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology annual meeting in the winter of 2009.  Researchers who looked at claims data of patients who suffer from both asthma and elevated cholesterol problems found that those who took a popular class of cholesterol medicine called statin therapy along with inhaled corticosteroids had fewer asthma symptoms overall.  Their frequency of emergency room visits actually went down compared to their asthmatic counterparts who weren't being treated for cholesterol issues.

An Effective Form of Asthma Treatment

In fact, the study results found that the odds of an emergency room visit or hospitalization among asthmatics using corticosteroids who also took cholesterol medicine decreased by 33 percent, perhaps due to the anti-inflammatory effects that the statins have on their users. Since asthma occurs at least in part because of an inflammation of the airways, this makes sense to many medical professionals that this would be an effective asthma treatment.

Conflicting Findings

Complicating matters, though, is that another well-respected new study using claims data from Kaiser Permanente in San Diego, Calif., revealed that statin drugs and asthma patients on corticosteroids were a bad combination, causing breathing symptoms to worsen, not get better.

Possible Explanations

Despite the contradicting results of the two studies, some experts say that both findings could be accurate. There is some speculation that a possible reason that this discrepancy exists when it comes to cholesterol medicine and asthma treatment is because more factors were considered in the second study, which enabled researchers to get a clearer snapshot of the reaction that statins can cause in people with asthma.

But some scientists say that there could also be another explanation for the differences. It could simply be that the patients looked at in the study released at the AAAI meeting had much less severe forms of asthma than those in the Kaiser Permanente study and therefore responded differently to the cholesterol medication as an asthma treatment.  This in itself could be a significant distinction, since if it is this is indeed true, it could mean that statins are effective in preventing asthma in people with milder cases of the disease, but can also worsen symptoms in those patients who have more severe forms of asthma. More research needs to be done to better clarify this issue and determine how statins can best be used for different types of disease treatment.

The Need for Further Research

Until researchers have a better understand of the impact of taking statins with asthma, at you shouldn't rush out and ask your doctor to prescribe you cholesterol-lowering medication in the hopes that your breathing will improve simply by taking it.

That being said, if you have mild asthma and do end up needing cholesterol medication to treat elevated cholesterol levels, you may just be one of the lucky ones who finds that both conditions improve as a result.


American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology


American Academy of Neurology (AAN)

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