Popular statin drug pravastatin could lead to memory loss, warn researchers.
The study led by scientists at the University of Bristol and, tested pravastatin and atorvostatin (two commonly prescribed statins) in rat learning and memory models.
The findings show that while no adverse cognitive effects were observed in rat performance for simple learning and memory tasks for atorvostatin, pravastatin impaired their performance.
Rats were treated daily with pravastatin (brand name - pravachol) or atorvostatin (brand name - Lipitor) for 18 days. The rodents were tested in a simple learning task before, during and after treatment, where they had to learn where to find a food reward.
On the last day of treatment and following one week withdrawal, the rats were also tested in a task which measures their ability to recognise a previously encountered object (recognition memory).
The study's findings showed that pravastatin tended to impair learning over the last few days of treatment although this effect was fully reversed once treatment ceased. However, in the novel object discrimination task, pravastatin impaired object recognition memory. While no effects were observed for atorvostatin in either task.
The results suggest that chronic treatment with pravastatin impairs working and recognition memory in rodents. The reversibility of the effects on stopping treatment is similar to what has been observed in patients, but the lack of effect of atorvostatin suggests that some types of statin may be more likely to cause cognitive impairment than others.
The study has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.