Do Statins Cause Poor Brain Function?


Statins are a class of medication used to lower cholesterol and have been shown to reduce risk of death in individuals with cardiovascular disease. They are also currently recommended for use in patients at high risk of developing heart disease who have high cholesterol. A number of statins are currently available on the market including:  simvastatin (Zocor), atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Mavacor), pitavastatin (Livalo), pravastatin (Pravachol), and rosuvastatin (Crestor). In February of 2012, the FDA issued a warning that statins may have a negative effect on brain function. However, this warning, which was based mostly on individual reports, seemed to contradict evidence from research such as clinical trials.


A recent meta-analysis, a study of all available trials, led by Brian R. Ott, MD, Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Rhode Island Hospital and Professor of Neurology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, sought to further investigate this issue. The study found no significant relationship between cognitive decline or adverse cognitive events and the use of any stain drug in either cognitively healthy people or those with dementia. In addition, no other systematic review has ever linked statins to impaired brain function as of today.


While significant side effects from statin use, such as muscle damage, do exist, these effects are rare and are offset by the significant benefits of statin therapy in preventing heart attacks and strokes. If you are considering taking a statin medication or a statin has been recommended to you by a medical professional, the potential benefit must be weighed against any potential negative effects, as is the case when taking any medication. The potential for statins to have a negative effect on brain function however is NOT supported by the current body of research.