Statins Reduce Flu Vaccine Effectiveness

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If you take a cholesterol-lowering statin medication like Lipitor, you are likely familiar with statin side effects, including muscle issues and potential liver damage.

But did you know that taking a statin reduces the effectiveness of the flu vaccine?

Two new studies recently made that discovery. The studies were not small: four countries were involved, including the US, and almost 7,000 adults were evaluated. These two research studies concluded that adults who take statin medications had significantly reduced immune responses to the flu shot, compared with those who do not take statins. As well, the effectiveness at preventing serious respiratory illness was lower among adults taking statins.

In Medical News Today’s Flu Vaccine Effectiveness Reduced by Use of Statins article, the author explains:

“Statin users were found to have a significantly reduced immune response to vaccination compared with those not taking statins, as measured by the level of antibodies to the flu vaccine strains in patients’ blood 3 weeks after vaccination.

The effect was most dramatic in patients on synthetic rather than naturally derived statins.”

As millions of Americans over age 65 take cholesterol-lowering statins – and the flu can be very dangerous for older adults –  this diminished effectiveness of the flu vaccine is a significant, widespread concern.

Of course, this new finding does NOT mean that if you take a statin medication like Lipitor that you should not bother with the flu shot. Rather, it means you should do everything you can to enhance the flu shot’s effectiveness — for example, get the flu shot early in the season, and take extra precautions – don’t assume that since you got the flu shot that you can’t get the flu!

So if you must take a statin because you have had a cardiac event or you and your doctor have calculated your risk and statins are indicated (more info at Why You Should Use the New Cholesterol Guideline Calculator), please be careful this flu season.

But if you are on the fence about statin use for your particular medical situation, perhaps this newly discovered additional downside to statins is something to discuss with your doctor.

 

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