University of Maryland Researchers Contribute to Findings that Statins Don't Improve Outcomes of Two Lung Diseases

For immediate release: May 27, 2014


Bill Seiler

[email protected] | 410-328-8919

Sometimes, clinical studies don’t produce the expected results. That’s what happened in the case of two recently reported lung studies, both of which included researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and patients at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

The studies tested the effect of cholesterol-lowering statin medications on patients with two debilitating lung diseases—COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome). The research was driven by previous observations that some COPD and ARDS patients taking statins for other reasons seemed to do better than those not on statins. Inflammation is a factor in both lung diseases, and statins have anti-inflammatory properties. Could they convey a lung benefit? No one had ever tested the statin connection in a well-designed comparative study.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health funded the two separate studies. The STATCOPE (Simvastatin for the Prevention of COPD Exacerbations) study compared the effects of generic simvastatin against placebo in 885 adults with COPD in 45 hospitals across the United States and Canada. The SAILS (Statins for Acutely Injured Lungs from Sepsis) study compared rosuvastatin and placebo in 745 adults with sepsis-associated ARDS in 44 hospitals.

Both studies were stopped early because there was very little chance of showing that statins would improve any clinical outcome for either lung disease. COPD patients taking statins experienced no reduction in the frequency of flare-ups or other adverse events. ARDS patients on statins showed no reduction in death or days free of a mechanical ventilator.

University of Maryland School of Medicine contributors to the STATCOPE study include: Steven M. Scharf, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, and Robert M. Reed, MD, assistant professor of medicine.

University of Maryland School of Medicine contributors to the SAILS study include: Peter Rock, MD, MBA, professor and chair, Department of Anesthesiology; Carl B. Shanholtz, MD, associate professor of medicine; Daniel L. Herr, MD, associate professor of medicine and surgery and Giora Netzer, MD, MSCE, assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology and public health.

The studies are published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.  The STATCOPE study is here . The SAILS study is here.