Could an Inhaled Statin Be Used to Treat Asthma?

Statins, when inhaled directly into the lungs, could potentially be an effective asthma treatment, according to a new study.

“We hypothesized that pravastatin delivered intratracheally would be quantifiable in lung tissues using mass spectrometry, achieve high drug concentrations in the lung with minimal systemic absorption, and mitigate airway inflammation and structural changes induced by ovalbumin,” they wrote.

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Previous research has suggested that statins have the potential to alleviate asthma symptoms, but because the drugs are only approved to be taken orally, researchers were unable to quantify how statins affected the lungs, or if they even reached them.

Researchers hypothesized that direct delivery of statins into the lungs would be more effective, lower required dosage, and reduce the risk of adverse events.

For 4 weeks, researchers sensitized male mice to ovalbumin (OVA), a protein found in egg whites, then exposed the mice to 1% OVA aerosol spray or filtered air for over 2 weeks. Before and after each OVA exposure, mice received intratracheal instillations of pravastatin.

Researchers observed that the statin spray was not toxic and successfully reached the lungs without spreading significantly to the rest of the body.

Inhaled pravastatin effectively decreased the overproduction of mucus in the airway and overall sensitivity to allergens through modest anti-inflammatory effects.

“This work suggests that statins may be targeted for delivery to the lung and potentially developed as a novel class of inhaler therapy for the treatment of human asthma,” they concluded.

The complete study is published in the May issue of Physiological Report.

-Michelle Canales Butcher

Zeki AA, Bratt JM, Chang KY, et al. Intratracheal instillation of pravastatin for the treatment of murine allergic asthma: a lung-target approach to deliver statins. Physiological Reports. 2015 May [epub ahead of print] doi: 10.14814/phy2.12352 .