Staying on Statins to Prevent Parkinson's

Parkinsons disease risk lowered with continued statin usage among women and elderly

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Statins are widely used medications that help people control cholesterol levels in the blood. Some research has shown these medications to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. Could these properties have an impact on the development of Parkinson's disease?

A recent study showed that patients who continued to use statin medications to lower cholesterol were less likely to develop Parkinson's disease than those who stopped using statins altogether.

Continued use of certain statins lowered the risk for Parkinson’s particularly among women and the elderly, according to the researchers.

"Talk to your doctor about statin use and Parkinson's disease."

Statins are medicines used to lower cholesterol by limiting the enzyme in charge of producing cholesterol in the liver. Statins are classified as lipophilic or hydrophilic depending on how they are processed in the body. 

For this study, Yen-Chieh Lee, MD, from the Department of Family Medicine at Cathay General Hospital in Taipei, Taiwan, and colleagues looked at how reducing statin use might affect rates of Parkinson's disease.

This study included almost 44,000 participants between 2001 and 2008 who did not have Parkinson's disease. Participants were about 63 years old on average and more than half were female.

The researchers tracked the number of cases of Parkinson's that developed among patients who stopped using statins.

Among patients who used lipophilic statins (lovastatin, simvastatin and atorvastatin as examples), the researchers found 1.68 cases of Parkinson's disease for every 1,000,000 person-days. A person-day for lipophilic statins is a measurement of how many days a patient takes the statin.

Among patients who used hydrophilic statins (pravastatin and rosuvastatin as examples), the researchers found 3.52 cases of Parkinson's per 1,000,000 person-days.

Though the number of Parkinson’s cases was small, the researchers found that continued use of lipophilic statins was linked with a decreased risk for Parkinson's.

Patients who continued to use the lipophilic statins were 58 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's compared to those who stopped using these statins.

Patients who used simvastatin (Zocor), a lipophilic statin, were about two-thirds less likely to develop Parkinson's compared to those who did not use that statin. The medicine worked especially in women, with their risk for Parkinson's decreasing up to 89 percent.

With atorvastatin (Lipitor), another lipophilic statin, the risk for Parkinson's decreased by about 76 percent. This statin was also beneficial for the elderly, with their chances of developing Parkinson's dropping by 58 percent.

The researchers found no links between hydrophilic statins and how often Parkinson's disease occurred.

For both classes of statins, the size of the statin dose or how long the medicine was taken did not affect Parkinson's disease risk.

"Our study demonstrated that continuing use of lipophilic statins has a decreased association with Parkinson's disease as compared to statin discontinuation in statin users, especially for simvastatin and atorvastatin, after adjusting for age, sex, comorbidities, and other potential confounder medications," the researchers wrote in their report. "The potential beneficial effect was not observed in users of hydrophilic statins."

The authors noted that although they looked at a representative dataset from a million people nationwide, they still had few Parkinson's cases to investigate.

They also could not keep track of those who smoked. Heavy smoking has been linked to Parkinson's, according to the researchers.

The researchers said that further studies are needed to see what role statin therapy has on Parkinson’s disease.

This study was published online July 24 in the journal Neurology.

The Taiwan Ministry of Education, the National Health Insurance Research Database under the Bureau of National Health Insurance and the Department of Health by the National Health Research Institutes funded the study.

No conflicts of interest were declared.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 24, 2013
Last Updated:
July 29, 2013