Toronto — A cholesterol drug has been linked to a lower risk of death from COVID-19, according to a new, large population study.

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Statins are often prescribed by doctors to help lower blood cholesterol levels and may help prevent cardiovascular events such as heart attacks and strokes.

“Our results suggest that statin treatment may have a moderate prognostic effect on COVID-19 mortality,” said study co-author Rita Bergquist, a medical student at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. News release.

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Previous studies attempting to explore the association between drug use and COVID-19 deaths did not provide a convincing answer. This prompted the researchers to conduct the largest ever population study on the relationship between statins and COVID-19 mortality.

the study, published Thursday in the journal PLOS Medicine, analyzed medical data for all 963,876 residents in the Stockholm region aged 45 and over from March 1, 2020 to November 11, 2020. Of them, 169,642 were prescribed statins between March 1, 2019. and February 29, 2020.

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Those who were prescribed statins were older on average (71 years of age versus 58 years of age), were diagnosed with comorbidities more often (23.3 percent versus 1.6 percent) and were diagnosed with other factors, as well. More frequently on anticoagulant and antihypertensive treatments.

A total of 2,545 residents across the group died of COVID-19 during the analysis period, including 765 (0.45 percent of the group) and 1,780 (0.2 percent of the group) not prescribed statins.

After adjustments were made regarding relevant medical data, such as pre-existing medical conditions, the results showed that statin treatment was actually associated with a slightly lower risk of dying from COVID-19. The correlation between risk groups also did not differ significantly.

“Overall, our findings support the continued use of statins for conditions such as heart disease and high levels of blood lipids, in line with current recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Victor Ahlquist, co-author and doctoral student. University’s Department of Global Public Health.

It should be noted, the authors say, that randomized studies will need to be conducted to determine if there is a causal relationship.

A limitation of the study was that it used clinical data while not being able to account for actual drug use. Researchers were not able to control for risk factors such as smoking and high BMI, only diagnosed health conditions.