Update on the potential role of statins in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and its co-morbidities

Expert Rev Respir Med. 2013 Oct;7(5):533-44. doi: 10.1586/17476348.2013.838018.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is soon to become the third leading cause of death in developed countries. COPD is increasingly considered a multisystem disease characterized by both pulmonary and systemic inflammation. Over the last 5 years, there have been a growing number of studies showing that the cholesterol-lowering drugs statins (HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors) have a beneficial effect in patients with COPD. While statins are known to have a number of pharmacological effects (pleiotropy) that could explain these benefits, it is currently not clear which effects are most relevant in COPD. This article reviews the most recently published studies of statin therapy in patients with COPD, focusing on the important COPD co-morbidities of the pulmonary system (infective exacerbations, pneumonia, influenza and lung cancer) and cardiovascular system (acute coronary syndrome, endothelial dysfunction and pulmonary hypertension). While we await the results of randomized controlled trials, there continues to be consistent (albeit indirect) evidence from observational studies suggesting statins are beneficial for patients with COPD, conferring important pharmacological effects on inflammation not conferred by current inhaler-based therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Comorbidity
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / diagnosis
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors