22 March 2009

Statins and dementia

Statins and risk for Alzheimer disease
Dementia News (Alzheimer’s Australia): 20 March 2009
For some time, researchers have been investigating whether a class of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins might reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This question is one being addressed as part of a large prospective, population-based study, the Rotterdam Study. The researchers have published their findings to date in the most recent edition of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry.

Between 1990 and 1993, 6992 people enrolled in the study and were followed over the ensuing years. By January 2005, 582 of them had developed Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers tracked which drugs each person took by accessing pharmacy records of all filled prescriptions. They further divided those people taking statins into two groups: those taking lipohilic statins and those taking hydrophilic statins. Lipophilic means having an affinity for oil or fat; lipophilic statins pass more easily across the blood-brain barrier, which carefully guards the brain from many substances carried in the blood. Hydrophilic means having an affinity for water. The researchers were interested in finding out whether there was a difference in outcomes between statins with these different mechanisms of delivery.

Some of the study participants took non-statin cholesterol-lowering drugs, whilst others took no cholesterol-lowering drugs. These data were also recorded, and results were adjusted for a range of possible confounders, such as age and sex, to exclude their influence on the results.

After analysing the data, the researchers found that use of statin drugs was associated with a decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but use of nonstatin cholesterol-lowering drugs was not. When the researchers compared lipophilic statins with hydrophobic statins, they found no difference between them in their association with lower incidence of Alzheimer's disease.

Reference: M D M Haag MDM; Hofman A;Koudstaal PJ; Stricker BHC; Breteler MMB (2009). Statins are associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer disease regardless of lipophilicity. The Rotterdam Study. Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry 80:13-17.

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