A systematic review of current evidence, completed by a research team in the US, has found that there is not enough evidence to link statin use to cognitive decline or an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. The research is published on 18 November in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
There have been conflicting reports suggesting that the use of statins could be associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline or dementia. To examine the evidence more thoroughly, a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University Medical Centre in the US has completed a systematic review of all the available high quality evidence on the topic.
They searched the current literature for studies including clinical trials and cohort studies, which looked at cognition in people taking statins. The studies were assessed for their quality, based on factors such as the risk of bias and number of participants. Overall, 57 studies were identified for inclusion in the systematic review and 25 were included in a meta-analysis to provide a statistical overview of the results.
The researchers concluded that evidence did not suggest an increased risk of cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s in people taking statins. In contrast, the team found some evidence of a reduced risk of dementia in statin users, but acknowledged a lack of high-quality, large randomised controlled trials that would be needed to draw ‘unequivocal conclusions about the effect of statins on cognition’.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, the UK’s leading dementia research charity, said:
“It’s natural that people may have been worried after hearing reports of a possible link between statins and memory decline, but this comprehensive review should go a long way to allay those fears. By pulling together the best available evidence, reviews like this one can provide a much clearer picture of the benefits and side-effects of specific treatments. Research like this is vital for helping doctors make fully informed decisions about what treatments to prescribe. Anyone with questions or concerns about any medication they are taking should talk to their doctor.
“Although the review highlights a link between statin use and a lower risk of dementia, we can’t say from this research that statins can prevent the condition. We still need to understand much more about the risk factors for dementia, and investment in research is vital to shed more light on this complex area. The more we know about different factors that raise or reduce the risk of dementia, the better equipped we will be to find much-needed preventions.”