Lipid-lowering drugs could impair lung function: study

Monday, 24 July, 2023

Lipid-lowering drugs could impair lung function: study

A study involving 340,000 UK Biobank participants has found that a new class of cholesterol-lowering drugs could impair lung function in some patients.

Researchers from the University of South Australia analysed genetic data from the study participants to explore the risks and benefits of cholesterol lowering medications (LDL-C drugs). They also compared these drugs to a range of clinical and heart and brain MRI biomarkers.

In the vast number of cases, medications prescribed for high cholesterol lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and age-related diseases without causing any other adverse health conditions except diarrhoea in some people, said the researchers.

However, lipid lowering medications that clear cholesterol from the cells — known as PCSK9 inhibitors — could impair lung function and further studies are needed on their long-term side effects.

Genetic variants reflecting another cholesterol lowering medication, statins, were found to correlate with higher BMI and body fat, as well as reduced testosterone.

Compared to statins, which inhibit the production of cholesterol, PCSK9 drugs destroy cholesterol in the cells. The latter are a newer class of drug so less is known about their long-term safety.

UniSA PhD student Kitty Pham, lead author of the paper, said the findings highlight the importance of delving deeper to understand potential long-term effects of different medications.

One unexpected benefit of taking statins was found, with some people seeing an increase in brain volume of the hippocampus, which may reduce the risk of dementia and depression.

The findings, said Pham, may influence how these drugs are prescribed or repurposed in the future. They help us understand how people may react to different drugs and assess the viability of new drug pathways, Pham said.

Chief investigator Professor Elina Hypponen, Centre Director of the Australian Centre for Precision Health at UniSA, said genetic information was used to compare the outcomes of a range of LDL-C lowering drugs, working in different ways.

“This normally would not be practical in a clinical trial or for such a large sample size, but genetic analyses such as the one we have conducted can really help with drug safety profiling by uncovering links with diseases and biomarkers,” Hypponen said.

The findings have been published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

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