Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, like the widely prescribed Lipitor, may increase the long-term risk of Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study that contradicts previous research which found the drugs could prevent the disease.
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain disease that affects about a million people in the United States. The causes of the disease are unknown.
Xuemei Huang, professor of neurology and vice chair for research at Penn State College of Medicine, identified a link between high blood cholesterol and lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease, but evidence in subsequent studies have been inconsistent. Previous studies have also found an association between Parkinson’s incidence and use of statins, which work by lowering LDL cholesterol. However, it was not clear whether statins were responsible for lower Parkinson’s incidence.
Huang sought to test this association by looking at low blood cholesterol levels, medical history and Parkinson’s symptoms among patients who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. From his analysis, Huang and associates confirmed that high cholesterol and LDL were associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s, and that people who use statins were at increased long-term risk of the disease.
Statins are widely prescribed to lower cholesterol levels in order to protect against cardiovascular risks such as heart attacks and strokes. Though widely used, many people cannot tolerate statin side effects, which include muscle injury, liver damage and increases in blood sugar levels which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
Huang’s study on top of the drugs’ other adverse effects have left many questioning the benefits of statin therapy. “Although some have proposed that statins might be a ‘cure-all’ drug,” Huang says, “this might be a case where what’s good for the heart isn’t good for the brain.”
Source: Medical News Today