From the Journals

Short-term statin use linked to risk of skin and soft tissue infections



Statin use for a minimum of 3 months was significantly associated with an increased risk of skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs), according to a sequence symmetry analysis of prescription claims over a 10-year period reported in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

In the study, statin use for as little as 91 days was linked with elevated risks of SSTIs and diabetes. However, the increased risk of infection was seen in individuals who did and did not develop diabetes, wrote Humphrey Ko, of the school of pharmacy and biomedical sciences, Curtin University, Perth, Australia, and colleagues.

The current literature on the impact of statins on SSTIs is conflicted, they noted. Previous research shows that statins “may reduce the risk of community-acquired [Staphylococcus aureus] bacteremia and exert antibacterial effects against S. aureus,” and therefore may have potential for reducing SSTI risk “or evolve into promising novel treatments for SSTIs,” the researchers said; they noted, however, that other data show that statins may induce new-onset diabetes.

They examined prescription claims (for statins, antidiabetic medications, and antistaphylococcal antibiotics) from 2001 to 2011 from the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs that included more than 228,000 veterans, war widows, and widowers. Prescriptions for antistaphylococcal antibiotics were used as a marker of SSTIs.

Overall, statins were significantly associated with an increased risk of SSTIs at 91 days (adjusted sequence ratio, 1.40). The risk of SSTIs from statin use was similar at 182 (ASR, 1.41) and 365 days (ASR, 1.40). In this case, the ASRs represent the incidence rate ratios of prescribing antibiotics in statin-exposed versus statin-nonexposed person-time.

Statins were associated with a significantly increased risk of new onset diabetes, but the SSTI risk was not significantly different between statin users with and without diabetes. Statin users who did not have diabetes had significant SSTI risks at 91, 182, and 365 days (ASR, 1.39, 1.41, and 1.37, respectively) and statin users with diabetes had similarly significant risks of SSTIs (ASR,1.43, 1.42, and 1.49, respectively).

In addition, socioeconomic status appeared to have no significant effect on the relationship between statin use, SSTIs, and diabetes, the researchers noted.

The findings were limited by several factors including the inability to account for patient compliance in taking the medications, a lack of dosage data to determine the impact of dosage on outcomes, and potential confounding by the presence of diabetes, they said. However, the results suggest that “it would seem prudent for clinicians to monitor blood glucose levels of statin users who are predisposed to diabetes, and be mindful of possible increased SSTI risks in such patients,” they concluded. Statins, they added, “may increase SSTI risk via direct or indirect mechanisms.”

More clinical trials are needed to confirm the mechanisms, and “to ascertain the effect of statins on gut dysbiosis, impaired bile acid metabolism, vitamin D levels, and cholesterol inhibition on skin function,” they wrote.

The study was supported in part by the Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship, the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute Biosciences Research Precinct Core Facility, and the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences (Curtin University). The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.

SOURCE: Ko H et al. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2019 Oct 9. doi: 10.1111/bcp.14077.

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