|Volume 6 Issue 201 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 19-Jul-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 20-Jul-2004||Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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No clear-cut answers on statins as therapy for Alzheimer's disease
Statins continue to generate interest as a possible preventive strategy for Alzheimer's disease, based on studies at The 9th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders (ICAD), presented by the Alzheimer's Association.
Ling Li, D.V.M, Ph.D., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, reports that simvastatin (Zocor, Merck) helps mice with memory problems. Mice genetically engineered to mimic key aspects of Alzheimer's disease have trouble remembering their way through mazes as they age. Li finds that Alzheimer mice treated with simvastatin regain their ability to navigate mazes and that the drug improves performance even for the non-engineered mice in the control group.
Other studies demonstrate the complexity of emerging data on statins.
John C. S. Breitner, M.D., of VA Puget Sound Health Care System and the University of Washington, reported new data that argue against the use of statins for Alzheimer prevention. Although several observational studies suggested that people taking statins had a significant reduction in their risk of developing Alzheimer's, Breitner described new results from three, long-running population studies that assess the possible impact of statins on preventing Alzheimer's.
"If you look at a 'snapshot' of statin users compared with non-users at a single moment in time, statin users seem to have a lower risk of Alzheimer's," Breitner said. "But if you look at people taking statins at enrollment in these studies and follow them over several years, the benefit of statins in warding off dementia largely disappears."
Large-scale clinical trials are needed to resolve the questions raised by these studies. Trials currently underway include (also see http://www.clinicaltrials.gov):
"Our current situation with regard to statins and Alzheimer's disease prevention is a classic 'open question' moment in science," says William H. Thies, Ph.D., Alzheimer's Association vice president, Medical & Scientific Affairs. "The question to be resolved is: Do statins reduce an individual's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease if you prescribe them specifically for that purpose before a person shows any detectable symptoms of dementia?
"Although current data are mixed, there has been promising evidence of some biological mechanisms that may account for the preventive benefit. Almost everyone agrees that the data are good enough to justify large-scale trials. Statins are just one good example of why the Alzheimer's Association is calling on Congress to earmark additional funds for Alzheimer's disease clinical trials," Thies said.