You're my wife?

December 03, 2003

ONE day former astronaut Duane Graveline came back from a walk and failed to recognise his wife. He blamed this temporary bout of amnesia on the drug Lipitor, which he had been taking for several weeks.

Doctors dismissed his fears, but six weeks after he started taking the drug again he suffered another bout of amnesia. This time he could not remember anything after high school, not even his children.

Graveline is one of a growing number of people who say they have suffered from amnesia and other nervous-system side effects after taking statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs being prescribed to millions of people at risk of heart disease. And now a few researchers are starting to believe their claims.

Beatrice Golomb at the University of California, San Diego, who is studying the effects of statins on cognition and mood, says she has documented at least 100 cases of memory problems that might be due to statins, including 30 cases of transient amnesia. "It's probably fairly rare," she says.

But with tens of millions of people taking the drugs worldwide, such problems could still affect thousands of patients. One of the reasons Golomb thinks statins are to blame is that in more than half the cases of amnesia, people suffered a second episode, a far higher relapse rate than normal.

Around 60 accounts of memory problems after taking statins were also found by a team from Duke University in North Carolina, who analysed the Medwatch database of drug side effects (Pharmacotherapy, vol 23, p 871). In some cases the patients' memory problems returned only when they resumed taking statins.

This "re-challenge effect" is considered to at least hint at a causal relationship between a drug and a side effect. Though statins are generally considered very safe, it would not be surprising if they affect neural function. The drugs block the synthesis of cholesterol, a key ingredient in cell membranes.

Last year, a Danish study concluded that patients on statins have a substantially increased risk of polyneuropathy, a condition characterised by weakness and numbness in the extremities. But many patients on statins are older and have a high risk of memory problems, P. Murali Doraiswamy of the Duke team points out.

The key question is whether patients suffer a higher rate of memory problems than expected. Eight trials have shown no harmful or beneficial effect, he says. "No one should be discouraged from taking a statin because of such anecdotal reports.

The benefits of statins far outweigh any possible risks." Yet his team's paper concludes that "statins, in rare cases, may be associated with cognitive impairment, though causality is not certain".

Golomb is convinced by the number of re-challenge effects she has seen that there is a causal link. But because these side effects are not recognised, doctors tell patients they're imagining things, she says.
-end-
Author: Sylvia Pagan Westphal, Boston

New Scientist issue: 6 December 2003

PLEASE MENTION NEW SCIENTIST AS THE SOURCE OF THIS STORY AND, IF PUBLISHING ONLINE, PLEASE CARRY A HYPERLINK TO: http://www.newscientist.com.

"These articles are posted on this site to give advance access to other authorised media who may wish to quote extracts as part of fair dealing with this copyrighted material. Full attribution is required, and if publishing online a link to http://www.newscientist.com is also required. Advance permission is required before any and every reproduction of each article in full - please contact celia.thomas@rbi.co.uk. Please note that all material is copyright of Reed Business Information Limited and we reserve the right to take such action as we consider appropriate to protect such copyright."

UK CONTACT - Claire Bowles, New Scientist Press Office, London: Tel: 44-0-20-7331-2751 or email claire.bowles@rbi.co.uk.
US CONTACT - Michelle Soucy, New Scientist Boston Office: Tel: 617-558-4939 or email michelle.soucy@newscientist.com.

New Scientist

Related Statins Articles from Brightsurf:

Being in treatment with statins reduces COVID-19 mortality by 22% to 25%
A research by the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV) and Pere Virgili Institut (IISPV) led by LluĂ­s Masana has found that people who are being treated with statins have a 22% to 25% lower risk of dying from COVID-19.

Twitter data research reveals more about what patients think about statins
More than one in seven people taking statins -- prescribed to lower cholesterol levels -- believed that meant they could still eat unhealthy foods, a new study shows.

Statins starve cancer cells to death
More than 35 million Americans take statin drugs daily to lower their blood cholesterol levels.

Statins linked to higher diabetes risk
Individuals who take cholesterol-lowering statins may be at higher risk for developing high blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and eventually type 2 diabetes, according to an analysis published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Statins could protect against motor neurone disease
High cholesterol has been found to be a possible risk factor for the development of motor neurone disease (MND), according to a large study of genetic data led in the UK by Queen Mary University of London, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health in the USA.

Statins are more effective for those who follow the Mediterranean diet
For those who have already had a heart attack or a stroke, the combination of statins and Mediterranean Diet appears to be the most effective choice to reduce the risk of mortality, especially from cardiovascular causes.

Statins have low risk of side effects
Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs are associated with a low risk of side effects.

Statins overprescribed for primary prevention
Taking cholesterol-lowering drugs, or statins, as a preventive measure can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Many older adults do not take prescribed statins properly
In a British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology study of older adults prescribed statins, first-year nonadherence and discontinuation rates were high.

Statins show little promise for conditions other than heart disease
Medicines commonly prescribed to reduce people's risk of heart attack may have limited use for treating other diseases, research suggests.

Read More: Statins News and Statins Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.