From the Editor: Beyond Cholesterol
One of the leading drug classes in the United States, statins are so widely known as cholesterol lowering drugs that their other benefits are overlooked. They not only have other cardiac health rewards but also are proving helpful for a host of conditions.
It’s no surprise that statins slash heart attacks and other cardiac incidents by more than one-third. They both lower cholesterol by blocking the liver enzyme that produces it and help the body reabsorb it. According to Harvard Health Publishing, they even help people with normal cholesterol due to their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Statins guard against cholesterol’s damage to the arteries and boost vascular function. In addition, they help prevent blood clots by inhibiting platelets, lower blood viscosity, and reduce the risk of arterial plaques rupturing to cause heart attacks. Furthermore, some studies indicate that statins reduce the risk of stroke and may be beneficial for patients with heart failure, atrial fibrillation, and hypertension.
Although much more research is needed, studies indicate that the benefits appear to go well beyond the cardiovascular system.
Research suggests that statins may protect against hepatitis and contribute to the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Scientists are also looking into their role in treating neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Other neuroprotective actions may help patients with hemorrhage and traumatic brain injury, and statins’ anti-inflammatory and antioxidant functions also appear to help individuals with osteoarthritis, flu, and pneumonia, as well as slow progression of several lung diseases, including COPD.
Moreover, although evidence is limited, there may be a role for statin treatment of bacterial infections such as sepsis as well as benign prostatic hyperplasia and erectile dysfunction.
Although some studies indicate that statins may raise the risk for some cancers, including bladder cancer, research suggests they may also be helpful in the prevention and treatment of certain cancers, including hepatocellular carcinoma. Experimental studies have found that statins have slowed the progressions of a range of cancers including prostate, bladder, and breast cancer, with benefits for prostate cancer being most promising.
Now, science suggests that these powerful drugs may have significant benefits for patients with one of the cancers that’s most difficult to detect and treat. In this issue, contributor Mark D. Coggins, PharmD, BCGP, FASCP, details the latest research about treating ovarian cancer with statins.