Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Do Statins Dull the Minds of Some Patients?

Wall Street Journal

February 12, 2008, 8:51 am

Posted by Jacob Goldstein

Here’s what the vice chairman of medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital says about the effects of Lipitor on the cognitive function of some women: “This drug makes women stupid.”

Pfizer, which sells the cholesterol drug, says the pill has been tested in 400 clinical trials and racked up 145 million patient years of experience. The extensive data “do not establish a casual link between Lipitor and memory loss,” Pfizer says

And, as the WSJ’s Melinda Beck notes in today’s Health Journal column, the patient information sheet for the drug does not list cognitive issues such as memory loss or fuzzy thinking among the drug’s possible side effects. But the article also notes that anecdotal reports of a connection between statins and mental problems in some patients have been “rampant for years.”

The problem with anecdotal evidence, of course, is that it could always be coincidence masquerading as causality — the patients might have had memory problems even if they weren’t on the drug. And most cardiologists say the benefits of statins far outweigh any risks.

In any case, a clearer picture may be forthcoming: Researchers at the University of California at San Diego will soon complete a randomized controlled trial examining the effects of statins on thinking, mood, behavior and quality of life.

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