Statins and Dementia

20 Nov

Many robust studies show that cholesterol-lowering medicines called statins decrease the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.  Indeed, the widespread use of statins in people with or at risk for heart disease is at least partially responsible for the decreasing mortality from heart disease over the past few decades.

But almost nothing good in life or medicine comes without a cost.   With statins, the most common problem is muscle aches.  Some studies have estimated that as many as 20% of people on statins experience this symptom, which usually goes away when the medicine is stopped.  This issue can also be effectively addressed by lowering the dose or changing to a different statin.

A more recent concern about statins is the announcement last year by the FDA that a small number of people on statins report experiencing memory loss, forgetfulness and confusion.  The FDA reported that “in general, the symptoms were not serious and were reversible within a few weeks after the patient stopped using the statin.”  Today the Annals of Internal Medicine published a systematic review of available evidence on the relationship between statins and cognitive impairment.   

Researchers searched PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Library through October 2012 for randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) and cohort, case-control and cross-sectional studies that assessed cognition in patients taking statins. They also searched FDA databases from January 1986 through March 2012 to identify reports of adverse events related to statins.

Based on this extensive analysis, the study authors concluded that the currently available evidence does not support the theory that statins have negative cognitive effects.  They did note, however, that no randomized controlled trials have yet been conducted to investigate this issue.  Thus, they concluded that “larger and better-designed studies are needed to draw unequivocal conclusions about the effect of statins on cognition.”  

Here is a link to the review which received no industry funding.  And here is a Medscape article on the study.

1 Comment

Posted by on November 20, 2013 in Uncategorized


One response to “Statins and Dementia

  1. christa

    November 22, 2013 at 3:48 am

    I would be very interested in statin studies going forward. I worry that statins which are touted as lowering cholesterol and reversing arterial plaque build-up will turn out to be like HRT therapy and Fosomax, i.e. taken for too long, unwanted side effects will manifest themselves. Especially with HRT, I think my generation was the test case. I remember asking my doctor when I started HRT how long I would be taking those pills and he said “forever”. I get the feeling that I will be taking statins “forever” unless a large study shows I shouldn’t.
    Thanks for writing about such pertinent topics. With respect to your previous blog on DNA analysis, do you recommend the lab you used? Has your wife decided to have her analysis done? At my age I think whatever the results would show would not greatly phase me since a person will die sooner or later. But if I was younger and the anaylsis revealed a greater probablility of some untreatable condition( like Alzheimers as you mentioned) I’m not sure if the random joy of living wouldn’t be diminshed.
    I would like to know the regions of the world from which my ancestors came. In the AAStatesman today there was a fascinating article about the remains of a boy found in Siberia where the DNA showed European and Native American Indian.


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