"The strength of this study is that it examines the issue with a huge amount of statistical power and uses existing data to look prospectively at Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s," said lead author Benjamin Wolozin, MD, PhD, a professor of pharmacology at BUSM.
"The strength of reduction of incidence of dementia with simvastatin is striking,".
Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have found that the statin, simvastatin, reduces the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by almost 50 percent. This is the first study to suggest that statins might reduce the incidence of Parkinson’s disease. These findings, will be published in the July online open access journal BioMed Central (BMC) Medicine.
Statins that stave off Alzheimer's
By Nicole Laskowski
Statins May Stave Off Alzheimer’s
If you’re taking a statin to reduce cholesterol, you may also be improving your chances of avoiding certain neurodegenerative diseases. New research from the School of Medicine indicates that simvastatin, a statin sold as Zocor, reduces the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by almost 50 percent.
The researchers, led by Benjamin Wolozin, a MED professor of pharmacology, screened the Decision Support System database of the United States Veterans Affairs Medical System, looking for the effects of three statins — simvastatin, lovastatin, and atorvastatin — on the expected incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. His study of more than 700,000 subjects taking simvastatin showed that the drug reduced the incidence of both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease by almost 50 percent. A study of people taking atorvastatin showed that the drug reduced the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease by almost 10 percent. Lovastatin was not shown to reduce the incidence of either disease.
Wolozin is unsure why simvastatin reduces the incidence of these diseases, but he suspects that because the statin blocks a cholesterol-producing enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase, it may also affect the production of other chemicals. He notes that simvastatin reduces inflammation, and that it increases the production of some growth factors in the brain, which may make neurons more capable of resisting chronic degenerative disease.
What it means to you:
“If you are someone who is at risk for Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, you should use simvastatin because it could slow the process,” said Wolozin. “Most people currently use atorvastatin, because it is effective at reducing vascular injury related to cardiovascular disease. If your major health risk is cardiovascular disease, you might want to stay with atorvastatin, but if your major health risk is neurodegenerative disease, you might consider switching to simvastatin.”
Word to the wise:
At the moment, researchers recognize a relationship between simvastatin and the onset of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. They do not know how this relationship works. Be advised that statins may cause side effects such as headaches, nausea, rash, weakness, and muscle pain.
What’s next: Wolozin hopes to learn to determine how strong the relationship is between statins and degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. He plans on studying how the drug slows the progression of symptoms by gathering data on when Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease patients, both on and off the drug, meet certain well-known markers of the diseases.
alzheimer's disease, BioMed Central (BMC) Medicine, Boston University School of Medicine, caregiving, dementia, HMG-CoA reductase, lovastatin, simvastatin, statin, zocor