Statin drugs may help prevent dementia
High-potency statins such as atorvastatin and rosuvastatin showed a significant inverse association with developing dementia. Photograph: Tim Boyle/Getty Images
The most commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs may help prevent dementia while also reducing the risk of developing cataracts, new research suggests.
A study of almost 58,000 Taiwanese people aged 65 and over who were followed up for four and a half years found that those taking the highest dosage of statin drugs had a lower risk of developing symptoms of pre-senile and senile dementia.
In comparison with a control group, the 5,500 participants who went on to develop dementia were less likely to have been prescribed a statin or had taken the drug in low dose.
Statins are widely used in older people and those with a previous history of cardiovascular disease to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
However, in contrast to this latest research, some recent reports of statin-associated cognitive impairment have led the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to list statin-induced cognitive changes as a potential side effect.
Lead investigator Dr Tin-Tse Lin of the National University Hospital in Taipei told the European Society of Cardiology congress at the weekend that “patients who received the highest total equivalent doses of statins had a three-fold decrease in the risk of developing dementia”.
He added: “It was the potency of the statins . . . which was a major determinant in reducing dementia. High-potency statins such as atorvastatin and rosuvastatin showed a significant inverse association with developing dementia.”
Statins can cause side effects such as liver and muscle inflammation and are a common reason why patients stop taking their medication. Taking higher doses of statins may increase the risk of experiencing these side effects.
Lowers risk of cataracts
Meanwhile, separate research from the US presented at the conference showed statin use was associated with a 19 per cent lower risk of developing cataracts compared with those who did not take them.