Statins: Another study points to need for large trials
Taking statins to lower cholesterol levels does not appear to help ward off Alzheimer's or other types of dementia, according to a report in the July Archives of Neurology. This study comes only two months after a small pilot study in the same journal suggested that Lipitor (atorvastatin) might help individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer's.
Both studies add to the large contradictory body of evidence on whether statins may help treat or prevent Alzheimer's disease.
"The statins question remains open and the only way we're going to find an answer is with large-scale, randomized clinical trials in which one group takes statins and the other takes a placebo," says William H. Thies, Ph.D., Alzheimer's Association vice president, medical and scientific affairs. "Although results have been mixed, there is promising evidence of some biological mechanisms that may account for a benefit. Statins are just one good example of why the Alzheimer's Association is calling on Congress to earmark additional funds for Alzheimer's disease clinical trials," Thies explains.
Today's study tracked how often nearly 3,000 individuals enrolled in the Cardiovascular Health Cognition Study developed dementia due to Alzheimer's disease, vascular disorders, a mixture of those two conditions or other causes. Researchers compared whether participants who had ever taken a statin to control cholesterol developed dementia less often than those who had never taken any of these drugs. They found no difference.
The study authors also note the need for further research on this issue. One large federally funded clinical trial of simvastatin (Zocor) as a possible treatment for mild to moderate Alzheimer's is currently recruiting participants.
For more information, please see:
- A May 9, 2005, Alzheimer's Association research news feature: Pilot study of Lipitor hints at benefit
- A press release from the Alzheimer's Association 9th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders: No clear-cut answers on statins as therapy for Alzheimer's
- Alzheimer's Association fact sheet on statins