David Fedson, an internationally known vaccine expert, says cholesterol-lowering statin drugs may have the potential to mitigate symptoms of avian influenza.
Fedson, who was speaking at The First International Conference on Avian Influenza in Humans in Paris, called for research on the drugs’ effects on people and animals infected flu.
Fedson says that the anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects of statin drugs could decrease respiratory distress and the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients who have avian flu. He said observational studies suggest that statin drugs may reduce death rates in patients who have sepsis or pneumonia.
Given the wide distribution of statin drugs, the treatment may offer hope for patients in countries with scant supplies of antiviral medications or vaccines. “If epidemiological, laboratory, and clinical studies confirm the benefits of statins for treatment of influenza, physicians everywhere will have something to offer their patients for the pandemic,” Fedson says.
Treatment with statin drugs would also offer a cost advantage over antiviral agents, with a 5-day course of the antiviral drug oseltamivir costing about $60 to $90, while a 5-day course of generic simvastatin costs as little as $1.75.
“The scientific rationale for considering statins for treatment and prophylaxis of pandemic influenza is persuasive, but the public health rationale is overwhelmingly compelling,” Fedson says.
For more information, see Fedson’s report: Preparing for Pandemic Vaccination: An International Policy Agenda for Vaccine Development.