Statin Drugs Can Impair Cognitive Function
Following a review of clinical studies and side effect reports, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a safety alert that statin drugs may produce memory loss. This is in addition to increasing blood sugar and the risk of type 2 diabetes, as reported on recently.
They added that when the statin lovastatin (such as Mevacor) is combined with antibiotic or antiviral drugs, another side effect includes a weakened muscular system.
These issues are significant because nearly a third of adults over 40 years old or more in the U.S. are taking statins.
Paradox of cognitive effects
Initially, it was supposed that since statins improved cardiovascular health, that statins also should delay cognitive decline. This hypothesis turned out to be largely unfounded. A 2015 review of research from Mount Sinai medical researchers showed otherwise. The researchers analyzed clinical research on statins and found that the cognitive benefit is dubious
At the same time, other research has found that statins produce memory loss. A 1996 study was the first to report this. Then in 2003, a case study of 60 patients showed that statins produced cognitive impairment in some cases. Then a 2004 study of 308 patients showed that cognitive performance in the placebo group improved faster than the statin group. This illustrated that the statin group showed impairment overall. In 2009, a survey of 171 patients also showed cognitive impairment in 128 patients. Then 143 stopped the statin use and 128 of them showed cognitive improvement after stopping the statins.
A 2014 database analysis of adverse side effects in statins also found cognitive dysfunction issues. They found up to 30,000 reports a year of cognitive impairment as a result of statin use in the U.S.
FDA safety alert
This FDA safety alert requires label warnings on these statin drugs. Dr. Amy Egan, an FDA officer, told Reuters, “they need to be taken with care and knowledge of their side effects.”
Between 20 and 30 million Americans take statins, which include AstraZeneca’s Crestor, Pfizer’s Lipitor, and Merck’s Zocor, Mevacor and other brands. The primary purpose of statin drugs is to reduce cholesterol.
With this news, some health experts are concluding that statins should only be prescribed for serious cases.
The memory loss warning comes after side effects were reported from statin studies, combined with some anecdotal clinical reports. The diabetes warning comes after at least two studies – one in 2008 and another in 2010 – showed that statins can raise the risk of type 2 diabetes by 9%.
Other research finds that red yeast rice outperforms statins in lowering cholesterol.
At the same time, numerous studies have shown that certain foods, and diet changes in general, can also significantly reduce cholesterol – especially the “bad” cholesterols such as LDL (low density lipoprotein) and VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) – without the side effects these and other drugs are known to have.
Learn more about heart-healthy foods:
Any person taking this or any other pharmaceutical should not make any changes without consulting their health professional.
Chatterjee S, Krishnamoorthy P, Ranjan P, Roy A, Chakraborty A, Sabharwal MS, Ro R, Agarwal V, Sardar P, Danik J, Giri JS, DeGoma EM, Kumbhani DJ. Statins and cognitive function: an updated review. Curr Cardiol Rep. 2015 Feb;17(2):4. doi:10.1007/s11886-014-0559-3.
Schultz BG, Patten DK, Berlau DJ. The role of statins in both cognitive impairment and protection against dementia: a tale of two mechanisms. Transl Neurodegener. 2018 Feb 27;7:5. doi: 10.1186/s40035-018-0110-3.
Evans MA, Golomb BA. Statin-associated adverse cognitive effects: survey results from 171 patients. Pharmacotherapy. 2009 Jul;29(7):800-11. doi:10.1592/phco.29.7.800.