Some statins may impair memory
New research from the University of Bristol in the UK tested in rats two commonly prescribed statins and found that one, but not the other, reduced performance of working and recognition memory.
Statins are drugs that reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” in the blood and are taken by millions of people worldwide. They are prescribed for healthy people at high risk of heart disease and also to prevent further problems in people who have already had a heart attack or stroke, or who have peripheral artery disease. Statins work by reducing the amount of cholesterol that cells produce, which forces them to get their supply from the bloodstream, lowering the amount circulating in arteries.
For the study, the researchers tested two commonly prescribed statins–pravastatin (Pravachol) and atorvostatin (Lipitor). They gave rats a dose of the statins for 18 days and tested their ability to perform a simple learning task involving finding a food reward before, during and after treatment. On the last day of treatment and one week after stopping treatment, they also tested the rats’ ability to recognize a previously encountered object, which tested their recognition memory. The results showed that over the last few days of treatment, daily medication with pravastatin tended to impair the rats’ learning and atorvostatin had no effect on the rats’ memory. Researchers note that memory impairment was reversed when treatment with pravastatin ended.
The lead author of the study, Neil Marrion, noted that the findings are in line with anecdotal stories reported by patients to the FDA and that future research is needed to understand the relationship between statin treatment and cognitive function.
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