Statins are among the most commonly prescribed drugs used to treat high cholesterol levels
. Commonly used statins include atorvastatin, pravastatin, fluvastatin, pitavastatin, simvastatin and lovastatin.
Excess amount of LDL-cholesterol or bad cholesterol can deposit in the walls of blood vessels.
This condition where there is narrowing of blood vessels is called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can predispose to angina, heart attack and stroke. Statins act on a particular enzyme in the body and prevent the formation of LDL-cholesterol.
There were some reports that statins may cause acute memory impairment or memory loss. However, this short-term memory loss is not considered serious and was completely reversible once the medication was stopped.
Researchers from the Rutgers University and the University Of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine attempted to find out if statins were consistently associated with memory loss
The data for the study was obtained from a large database. The group of statin users included 482,543 patients. This group was compared with 482,543 similar patients who did not receive any cholesterol lowering drugs. The group using statins was also compared to another group of 26,484 patients who took other cholesterol lowering drugs but not statins. The researchers found that there was a strong association between first exposure to statins and incident acute memory loss within 30 days of beginning statin medications.
However, a similar association of acute memory loss and drug intake was present when the group was taking other cholesterol lowering drugs
which were not statins.
Thus, the researchers conclude that acute memory loss is not exclusive for statin treatment. Either all cholesterol-lowering drugs cause the memory loss, or there is a detection bias, falsely blaming the statins alone.
It should also be kept in mind that even if statins interfere with short-term memory, they are effective in preventing brain diseases like stroke, which are not only associated with disability, but also often cause long-term memory loss.
Statin therapy has also been associated with other side effects. Though they can cause serious side effects like liver damage, it is extremely rare. Some patients may experience a small rise in blood glucose after starting statins. Therefore, it may be necessary to measure the blood-sugar levels after administering statins. Statins
may cause muscle damage, especially when taken with some other drugs. This can be avoided to a large extent by giving the health care provider the list of medications that the patient is currently taken. Currently, the benefits of statins in reducing heart disease and stroke far outweigh their risk, and their continued use is recommended in individuals with high cholesterol levels who tolerate the drug well.