Studies and clinical trials for specific diseases often uncover data that may also benefit people with other disease. Researchers have found health problems that seem unrelated may in fact have an indirect relationship to Crohn's disease.

You're probably not familiar with the drug Atorvastatin by this name. However, its commercial brand names are highly marketed to consumers. Lipitor, Zocor and Crestor, among others, are popular cholesterol-lowering prescription medications. These drugs are also called statins.

In addition to lowering cholesterol, statins seem to play a role in regulating acute and chronic inflammation processes, which may offer good news for Crohn's patients.

Here's how Atorvastatin works:

Our body secretes small proteins called chemokines. Chemokines and their receptors play a critical role in certain disease functions, including inflammation. Our body also produce monocytes, or white blood cells, that rally to our defense when potentially harmful substances invade our body (such as bacteria or viruses), putting us at risk for disease. When we experience inflammation, our body produces additional monocytes to fight the inflammation.

Studies of monocytes from patients with Crohn's disease show an increase in pro-inflammatory chemokines and a decrease in substances that suppress inflammation. When patients take the drug Atorvasatin, it suppresses pro-inflammatory responses. This suggests that Atorvastatin ma y hold potential as a strategy for reducing inflammatory response in Crohn's patients.

In another study, treatment with Atorvastin reduced production of one chemokine specifically associated with mucosal inflammation. Mucosa is the protective lining in the intestines and other body cavities. Researchers are not sure yet if this process is related to Crohn's disease, but encourage further studies.

Like all medications, statins have risks. The two most serious reported side effects from satin use are liver damage and muscle problems. Physicians must always weight the benefits of treatments against potential risks in determining the best treatment option for individual patients.

Initial studies and clinical trials of Atorvastatin in patients with active Crohn's disease yield promising results. However, we need additional supporting research before coming to a conclusion.