Statins do not slow down the decline of Alzheimer’s disease, says randomised controlled trial


Previous studies have suggested that statin therapy might be a useful treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.

This randomised controlled trial conducted by a team of researchers from Mount Sinai School of Medicine set out to determine if the lipid-lowering agent simvastatin slows the progression of symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease.

They recruited 406 people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease and normal lipid levels.  Participants were randomly assigned to:

  • Simvastatin – 20 mg/day for 6 weeks, then 40 mg per day for the remainder of 18 months (204 patients)
  • Identical placebo (202 patients)

The main outcome measured was the rate of change in the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive portion (ADAS-Cog). Secondary outcomes measured clinical global change, cognition, function, and behaviour.

The statin treatment lowered the lipid levels in the patients who took it, but did not affect their ADAS-Cog scores or any of the secondary outcome measures.  No increased side effects were measured in the simvastatin treatment group.

The authors concluded:

Simvastatin had no benefit on the progression of symptoms in individuals with mild to moderate Alzheimer disease despite significant lowering of cholesterol.

This study provides Class I evidence that simvastatin 40 mg/day does not slow decline on the ADAS-Cog.

Sano M, Bell KL, Galasko D, Galvin JE, Thomas RG, van Dyck CH, Aisen PS. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of simvastatin to treat Alzheimer disease. Neurology. 2011 Aug 9;77(6):556-63. Epub 2011 Jul 27. [PubMed abstract]

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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