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By the way
Before I get to the subject of this week’s note, some of you may have seen a story in the newspapers last week: “Taking statins won’t lead to a loss of memory.” The headlines came from a paper in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (Ref 1). The paper isn’t on open view, but I’ve got a copy. The study was conducted in Australia and it used participants in an ongoing observational study called the Sydney Memory and Ageing Study. This involves appropriately 1,000 Australians aged 70-90 years old.
From this group of participants, 395 people (58% male) who had never taken statins were compared with 642 people (72% male) who had taken statins. The statin takers had been taking statins for an average of nine years. Both groups were then given several memory and cognitive function tests over the following six years. The study essentially found no significant difference between people who had never taken statins & people who had taken them. The researchers thus claimed that the widespread consumer concern that statin use may be associated with impaired memory is unfounded.
The key flaw in the study is that we know that almost half of people stop taking statins within a few months of starting them. A 2017 paper reported that only 61% of those who were prescribed a statin were still using the drug after 3 months; and only 55% remained on the drug after 6 months (Ref 2). What if those people who suffered cognitive impairment stopped statins soon after starting them? These people weren't studied.
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