June 21, 2017
2 min read

Statins may increase risk for Parkinson’s disease

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Use of statins was significantly associated with risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, suggesting statins should not be used to protect against the disease as reported in prior research, according to findings published in Movement Disorders.

“One of the reasons that may have explained these prior inconsistent results is that higher cholesterol, the main indication to use statins, has been related to lower occurrence of Parkinson’s disease,” Xuemei Huang, MD, PhD, from the departments of neurology and pharmacology at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, said in a press release. “This made it hard to know if the statin protective effect was due to the drug or preexisting cholesterol status.”

Researchers performed a retrospective case-control analysis using data from a commercially-available insurance claims database. They identified 2,322 incident Parkinson’s disease cases, then matched each patient to a control by age, gender and follow-up window, to study the relationship between statin use and incident Parkinson’s disease, and how long before disease symptoms appeared in patients taking statins.

Analysis showed that prior statin use was linked to higher risk for Parkinson’s disease with more noticeable risk observed at the start of the drug use. The highest associations were evident with lipophilic statins (OR = 1.58; P < .0001) compared with hydrophilic statins (OR = 1.19; P = .25), statins plus non-statins (OR = 1.95; P < .0001) and for the initial period after beginning statins. This association was strongest for use of statins less than 2.5 years, which indicates that statins may facilitate the onset of Parkinson’s. Additional research should include patients aged 65 years and older, as this analysis did not include this population, according to the researchers.

“We are not saying that statins cause Parkinson’s disease, but rather that our study suggests that statins should not be used based on the idea that they will protect against Parkinson’s,” Huang said in the release. “People have individual levels of risk for heart problems or Parkinson’s disease. If your mom has Parkinson’s disease and your grandmother has Parkinson’s disease, and you don’t have a family history of heart attacks or strokes, then you might want to ask your physician more questions to understand the reasons and risks of taking statins.” – by Savannah Demko

Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.