Harvard Heart Letter

Research we're watching: Memory loss from statins unlikely

Despite a 2012 FDA warning that taking the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins may lead to memory loss or confusion, the evidence supporting that claim is very weak. The warning was apparently based on a number of case reports, which are considered less reliable than other studies, such as those that compare users of a drug to nonusers. The latest research, in Annals of Internal Medicine, included data from 27 studies and found no proof linking statin use to dementia or other problems associated with thinking and memory.

The study authors also looked at data collected by the FDA from people who reported side effects while taking statins or either of two other drugs, the blood pressure drug losartan (Cozaar) and the anti-clotting drug clopidogrel (Plavix). Reported rates of cognitive problems were similar for all three medications, yet the FDA has not issued similar warnings on losartan or clopidogrel (nor does it need to).

Despite the reassuring results from the new study, the authors caution that larger and better-designed trials are still needed. The available evidence is limited, especially with regard to high doses of statins.

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