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Statins for the treatment of asthma: a discovery well, dry hole or just snake oil
  1. Bruce K Rubin
  1. Dr Bruce K Rubin, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Medical Center Blvd, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157-1081, USA; brubin{at}wfubmc.edu

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Until the 1906 Food and Drug Act in the USA, it was common for travelling salesman to move from town to town selling miraculous cures in the form of patent medicines. With the wide spread promotion of Clark Stanley’s Snake Oil Liniment, the term “snake oil” became a widely accepted derogatory phrase for ineffective patent medications sold with claims for curing an extraordinarily variety of illnesses.1

Statins are inhibitors of the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzymes A (HMG-CoA) reductase. These are among the most widely prescribed medications in the world today. Statins are dramatically effective, treating hyperlipidaemia and preventing cardiovascular disease, particularly in high risk populations.2 Statins have also been shown in the laboratory to have impressive immunomodulatory effects.3 These drugs suppress T helper (Th)1 cell development and promote Th2 polarisation from CD4 cells in vitro.4 Statins act as direct inhibitors of major histocompatibility antigen (MHC) class 2 expression and interferon γ (IFNγ) and thus inhibit T cell activation.5

In animal models, statins can ameliorate Th1 inflammatory disorders such as collagen induced arthritis and are being considered as a promising therapy …

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  • Competing interests: None.

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