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Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

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Zocor vs. Alzheimer's and Parkinson's

Cholesterol Drug Zocor May Lower Risk of Both Alzheimer's, Parkinson's Diseases
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 18, 2007 -- Zocor -- but not sister cholesterol-lowering drugs Lipitor or Mevacor -- may cut the risk of both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, a new study suggests.

It's not the first time that the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins have been linked to Alzheimer's disease. A small clinical trial in 2005 suggested that Lipitor might improve mental function in people with early Alzheimer's disease.

Both Lipitor and Zocor are in clinical trials to see whether they really do help people with Alzheimer's disease. But now there's compelling evidence that Zocor may actually prevent not only Alzheimer's disease, but Parkinson's disease, too.

The provocative new data come from Boston University researcher Benjamin Wolozin, MD, and colleagues.

"Many people are looking at whether statins might prevent the progression of dementia in people with Alzheimer's disease," Wolozin tells WebMD. "But a lot of people in the field think that if you start statin treatment at the time you already have the disease, it might be the wrong time. It might be nice to talk about how to prevent the disease."

To see whether taking statins had any effect on Alzheimer's disease, Wolozin's team used the immense U.S. Veterans Affairs database, with detailed information on 4.5 million patients. Some 727,000 of these patients took Zocor, about 54,000 took Lipitor, and about 54,000 took Mevacor.

In patients over age 64, those who took Zocor were 54% less likely to get Alzheimer's disease and 49% less likely to get Parkinson's disease than were matched patients not taking statin drugs.

Those who took Lipitor were 9% less likely to get Alzheimer's disease, a finding that was not statistically significant. Lipitor did not affect Parkinson's disease risk.

Mevacor had no effect on risk of either Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease.

D. Larry Sparks, PhD, director of the Roberts Laboratory for Neurodegenerative Disease Research at the Sun Health Research Institute in Sun City, Ariz., is involved in clinical trials of statins for Alzheimer's disease but was not involved in the Wolozin study.

"This study keeps alive the idea that statins may be of benefit in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and maybe even in mild cognitive impairment," Sparks tells WebMD. "But the most important part is that this addresses the role of cholesterol-lowering medications as a way to combat Parkinson's disease."

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