Lipitor, Mevacor and Pravachol have been found to suppress certain immune system cells known as helper T-cells, according to new research from Switzerland.
The researchers and subsequent media reports have focused on the fact that the drugs may be useful for treating transplant patients. However, how this immune suppression could affect the vast majority of patients taking the drugs is not discussed.
"This unexpected effect provides a scientific rationale for using statins as immunosuppressors, not only in organ transplantation, but in numerous other pathologies as well," the researchers conclude.
Researchers found that in laboratory-grown cells, the statin drugs suppressed the activation of helper T-cells. T cells, of which there are 4 types, are a group of lymphocytes produced in the thymus gland. The four types are:
Helper T cells, the type suppressed by the statin drugs, act by recognizing foreign pathogens and then activating the production of the proper T cells and B cells in response.
The statin drugs used in the study included the following:
Nature Medicine, December, 2000; 6: 1311-1312, 1399-1402