A new study has added to the large body of contradictory evidence on whether the commonly used cholesterol-lowering statins can help treat or prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

The trial, which was published in the current edition of the Archives of Neurology, included 2,798 patients ages 65 years and older who were free of dementia at the start of the study and compared whether participants who had ever taken a statin to control their cholesterol developed dementia less often than those who had never used the drugs – they found no difference. However, the authors said that additional investigation would be needed to determine whether and for whom statin use may affect dementia risk.

So, the possible benefit of statins in the treatment or prevention of dementia are yet to be conclusively determined. Although these new results cast a cloud over the theory that statins could prove useful, previous data have suggested that there is indeed a treatment benefit. Last year, Pfizer’s multi-billion dollar cholesterol-lowerer, Lipitor (atorvastatin), was shown to slow down mental decline and improved depressive symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s disease [[10/11/04e]], and earlier four-year, 3,300-patient data found a significant reduction in AD risk amongst statin users [[25/02/04c]].