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Do Statins Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk?

JAMA article offers provocative findings

An analysis of Medicare data suggests that high use of cholesterol-lowering statins was associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), according to an article published online in JAMA Neurology. Previous research has suggested a protective association between statins and AD.

Julie M. Zissimopoulos, PhD, and her colleagues at the University of Southern California analyzed claims data from approximately 400,0000 statin-treated Medicare beneficiaries to examine the association between statin use and the onset of AD. The researchers examined high and low exposure to the four most commonly prescribed statins: simvastatin, atorvastatin, pravastatin, and rosuvastatin.

The investigators found that, from 2009 to 2013, 1.72% of women and 1.32% of men received a diagnosis of AD annually. White men had the lowest incidence of AD (1.23%).

The average annual number of days of statin use was lower for black and Hispanic individuals than for white individuals.

High exposure (at least the 50th percentile of days of filled prescriptions in a given year for at least two years from 2006 through 2008) to statins was associated with a 15% reduced risk of AD for women and a 12% reduced risk for men, which varied across race/ethnicity and sex.

The risk of AD was reduced for Hispanic men, white women and men, and black women; no significant difference in risk was seen for black men who had high exposure to statins compared with low exposure.

High exposure to simvastatin was associated with a lower risk of AD for white, Hispanic, and black women, as well as for white and Hispanic men. No reduction in AD risk for black men was associated with any statin. Atorvastatin was associated with a reduced AD risk among white, black, and Hispanic women and Hispanic men. Pravastatin and rosuvastatin were associated with a reduced AD risk for white women.

A noteworthy limitation of the study is that it could not establish causality. The authors noted that clinical trials including all racial and ethnic groups are needed to confirm their findings.

The investigators concluded: “This [study] suggests that certain patients, facing multiple, otherwise equal statin alternatives for hyperlipidemia treatment, may reduce AD risk by using a particular statin. The right statin type for the right person at the right time may provide a relatively inexpensive means to lessen the burden of AD.”

Source: JAMA Network; December12, 2016.

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