Researchers at Stanford Medicine Find Statins to Be an Effective Ulcerative Colitis Treatment

People with ulcerative colitis who are taking statins were found to have a 50% decreased risk of colectomies and hospitalization, according to a Stanford Medicine study.

Statins, a commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering drug, may be an effective treatment for ulcerative colitis, according to a new Stanford Medicine study—the results of which were published in a Sept. 16, 2021, press release. Researchers found that people with ulcerative colitis who were taking statins, regardless of their age, had a 50% decrease in colectomy rates and were less likely to be hospitalized.

Purvesh Khatri, PhD, associate professor of medicine and of biomedical data science, and his team analyzed publicly available genomic data from hundreds of patients with ulcerative colitis who had a colon biopsy. They looked for certain genomic signatures (patterns of gene activity) that seemed to persist in most patients with the condition and found a disease signature that was robust across all the datasets, regardless of whether the patient was experiencing a flare in disease. They then worked to identify how certain drugs affected the gene activity associated with ulcerative colitis. After cross-referencing the data, the team identified three drugs that reversed the gene signature of ulcerative colitis: two chemotherapy drugs and a statin.

Rather than pursuing a clinical trial, the researchers turned to data from electronic health records to see if patients who had ulcerative colitis and were on statins needed a colectomy. They found that people with ulcerative colitis who were taking statins, regardless of their age, had about a 50% decrease in colectomy rates and were less likely to be hospitalized. In addition, they found that patients who were taking statins were prescribed other anti-inflammatory medications at a lower rate. While it’s not known how statins can impact ulcerative colitis, Khatri said they are known to have some sort of general anti-inflammatory capacity.

A paper describing the study was published on Sept. 16, 2021, in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Stanford University Medical Scientist Training Program, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the Ralph & Marian Falk Medical Research Trust.

Source: Stanford Medicine