Statins, drugs used to reduce cholesterol, may also ease respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and asthma, according to scientists.

The drugs are among the most commonly prescribed in Britain, with eight million patients taking them regularly to protect them from heart disease.

But research reveals that the medicine may also have a new use in easing symptoms of asthma and COPD. It is thought that they may work by reducing inflammation in the airways.

The claims come after a global study involving nearly a quarter of a million patients with COPD, including some from the UK, found that patients who were on statins were a third less likely to die prematurely or to be admitted to hospital with complications.

‘This is the most comprehensive analysis to date to evaluate whether statin use is associated with beneficial effects in COPD patients, and we found a beneficial, significant association,’ says Dr Chao Cao, a respiratory specialist from Zhejiang University School of Medicine, China, which led the COPD study.

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