Statins for Pulmonary and Cardiac Complications of Chronic HIV (The SPARC Trial)

Investigator: Laurence Huang, MD
Sponsor: University of Pittsburgh

Location(s): United States


Hypothesis: Statin therapy will decrease inflammation and slow progression of cardiopulmonary abnormalities in HIV. 

Growing evidence indicates that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an important cause of respiratory impairment in HIV+ persons and will likely increase as the HIV+ population continues to age. In the HIV-uninfected population, COPD frequently co-exists with cardiac disease including atherosclerosis and pulmonary hypertension (PH). The investigators work has demonstrated that a syndrome of "cardiopulmonary dysfunction" exists even in non-smoking or antiretroviral-treated HIV+ individuals. The investigators have found that HIV+ individuals have a high prevalence of respiratory symptoms, airflow obstruction, and diffusing capacity (DLco) abnormalities that occur concurrently with cardiac co-morbidities, including radiographic measures of atherosclerosis and elevated echocardiographic pulmonary artery pressures. This syndrome is marked by inflammation with elevated levels of cytokines and hsCRP, peripheral T-cell activation, and increased sputum neutrophils as well as elevation of NT-proBNP, a marker of heart strain. Importantly, the investigators have shown that DLco impairment and elevated NT-proBNP are significant independent predictors of mortality in HIV, indicating that cardiopulmonary dysfunction is likely highly clinically relevant and identifies a vulnerable population in whom the investigators lack effective interventions.

Statins have anti-inflammatory effects in the lung and vasculature that might benefit cardiopulmonary dysfunction in HIV. These agents have a long history of clinical use in cardiovascular disease and are currently being investigated as disease-modifying drugs for HIV, COPD, and PH. In preliminary analyses, the investigators have found that HIV+ individuals who received statin therapy within the past year were significantly less likely to have impaired DLco and had lower pulmonary artery pressures, lower NT-proBNP, lower peripheral cytokines, and fewer sputum neutrophils despite being older and having a greater smoking history than those not using statins.