New research suggests that the side effects of Lipitor, Zocor, and other popular cholesterol drugs may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, adding to the potential health concerns associated with the widely used medications.
Researchers with the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine found that the use of a class of cholesterol drugs known as statins may increase the risk of Parkinson’s disease, particularly during the first year of use. The findings were published online earlier this month in the medical journal Movement Disorders.
Statins, including Lipitor, Zocor, Crestor and others, generate combined sales of more than $14.5 billion per year, and are increasingly used to block the body’s creation of cholesterol, which is a key contributor to coronary artery disease. Although the medications are widely used, a number of studies have linked statins to an increased risk of potentially serious injuries, including muscle damage, kidney problems, and diabetes.
Researchers in this latest study looked at data from a large U.S. claims database, identifying 2,322 incidents of Parkinson’s disease. They compared those cases to 2,322 controls matched by age, gender and other factors.
According to the findings, the use of fat-soluble statins (known as lipophilic statins), including Lipitor, Zocor and Lescol, had the highest association with Parkinson’s disease, showing a 58% increased risk. That compared to only a 19% increased risk of water-soluble statins. The study also found that the risk appeared to be highest when statin therapy was first initiated, with an 82% increased risk within the first year of use, dropping to a 37% increased risk after more than two and a half years.
Researchers noted that the study does not prove that statins cause Parkinson’s disease, however, they noted that the findings contradict some research suggesting that the cholesterol drugs may help combat the movement disorder.
“The use of statins (especially lipophilics) was associated with higher risk of PD, and the stronger association in initial use suggests a facilitating effect,” the researchers concluded.
The study comes amid a push to increase the use of statins among Americans by a number of different task forces and medical groups.
Many critics have raised concerns that statins are being pushed on the populace too heavily, in what is often referred to as the “statinization” of America. Those concerns came after guidelines issued by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, who indicated that statins are the only drugs doctors should prescribe to lower cholesterol and called for doctors to toss out
Those concerns have been highlighted by evidence in recent years that has linked the use of statins with an increased risk of diabetes,which is a serious health condition associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and other complications.
Researchers have warned that enzymes affected by statins are also tied to blood sugar, and some have found a dose-specific response between Lipitor and similar drugs and an increased risk of diabetes, raising worries that the very drugs doctors may be suggesting to avoid heart disease could actually end up causing it and other health problems in some patients.