Back in February, I posted about Lipitor and memory loss. This was in response to a piece on ABC news that one of my patients had reported to me. What I said at the time was essentially that there really wasn't any clear evidence that Lipitor causes memory loss, that even if it did it was an extremely rare side effect, and the benefit of Lipitor for patients at risk for heart attack and stroke clearly outweighed the risk of side effects, including the more common ones such as muscle pain (about 3-5%).
A new report has just come out showing that statin medications may in fact PREVENT memory loss. The five year study, published in today's issue of Neurology , followed 1,674 Mexican Americans 60 years or older who were initially free of any cognitive impairment. About 25% of these patients took statins at some point during the 5 years, as determined by actually looking in their medicine cabinets. Patients mental function was tested every year or so. During the 5 year study, 130 subjects developed dementia or cognitive impairment. This risk was decreased by half for those patients who had taken a statin.
Bottom Line: This study is not a randomized trial, thus one should not start taking a statin medication for the sole purpose of preventing dementia or memory loss. However, these results are reassuring in that, if anything, statins like Lipitor probably prevent memory loss, not cause it.