The demonstrated benefits of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors (statins) for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease are well established in the medical literature, and this class of medications is among those most commonly prescribed in the USA. In 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration issued updated recommendations regarding statin medications, and the panel’s comments regarding memory impairment fostered clinical confusion (in part because of the lay media’s amplification). Cognitive data from several large epidemiological studies have not reliably demonstrated a robust association between incident cognitive impairment and statin use, with some studies reporting a protective effect, some reporting an increased risk and others finding no association. Although several interventional studies have evaluated statins as a possible adjunctive treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, none have clearly demonstrated a benefit. A small number of case series have reported infrequent memory difficulties associated with statin use. In these series, the patients’ cognitive symptoms resolved after statin discontinuation. The existing medical literature does not suggest that cognitive considerations should play a major role in medical decision making to prescribe statins for the large majority of patients. As with any medication prescribed for older adults, careful clinical monitoring for side effects should be exercised. If a patient is suspected of having idiosyncratic memory impairment associated with use of a statin medication, the drug can be discontinued. The patient should then be followed with careful clinical observation for 1–3 months for resolution of the cognitive symptoms.
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The authors declare that their work was not influenced by relationships with drug companies. Nevertheless, Dr Kelley wishes to declare that he received honoraria for participation in advisory boards or for giving lectures at sponsored symposia from the following drug companies: Lilly. Dr Glasser has received a research grant from Amgen. The authors received no funding for the preparation of this manuscript.
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Kelley, B.J., Glasser, S. Cognitive Effects of Statin Medications. CNS Drugs 28, 411–419 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40263-014-0147-5
- Mild Cognitive Impairment