Providers may be encouraged to prescribe more statins for the care of hypertension in vulnerable populations, but the widely-used class of drugs has no significant positive effects for patients looking to prevent flare-ups of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and manage acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), according to an article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The anti-inflammatory properties of statins did not increase life expectancy for ARDS patients or improve lung function for sufferers of COPD, and the two trials examining the issue were prematurely ended due to little hope of any beneficial outcomes.

While researchers theorized that statins could reduce inflammation in certain key pathways featured in the lung diseases, based on reviews of other studies that showed benefits to the regimens, patients in these studies did not see any benefits from taking the drugs.

ARDS patients did not spend fewer days on mechanical ventilators, nor did the medications decrease the likelihood of death from sepsis-related ARDS.  COPD patients experienced the same number of episodes as those taking a placebo, and one study even found that the statins may result in liver and kidney harm in ARDS sufferers.

“Treatment options for COPD and ARDS are limited,” said James Kiley, PhD, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Division of Lung Diseases. “Even though retrospective analysis of some previous studies had suggested that people treated with statins for other reasons did better with their lung diseases, our well-designed prospective study directly comparing statins to a placebo did not show benefits.”