Statins may keep asthma patients out of ER

Statins may have yet another target: Asthma. A new study by Medco Health Solutions and Brigham and Women's Hospital found that asthma patients who add statins to their asthma-drug therapy have to visit the ER less often. And they're hospitalized less often, too.

Adults who used inhaled corticosteroids and also took statins--such as Pfizer's Lipitor and AstraZeneca's Crestor--cut their risk of hospitalization or an ER visit by one-third, Medco said. The pharmacy benefits manager based its research on a retrospective review of members' records. All statins were treated equally; in other words, results weren't broken out by which type of statin patients used.

In addition to lowering cholesterol, statins have anti-inflammatory properties. These might play a role in helping lower the incidence of asthma attacks, Dow Jones reports. That's because asthma involves swelling of the airways, as well as constriction of muscles in the bronchial passages. Medco plans to present the study at the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology meeting.

Statins aren't FDA-approved for asthma treatment, and this wasn't a rigorous trial. "Don't rush out and buy yourself a statin for your asthma today," Dr. Robert Epstein, Medco's chief medical officer, told Dow Jones.

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