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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