Memory Loss feeling fuzzy and unfocused? it could be associated with taking statins
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that statin drugs can lead to “memory problems.” But some experts have challenged that view, and there’s no firm consensus on statins’ relationship to memory.
But there are more potential side-effects that the FDA warns about.
Reports of Memory Loss
FDA has been investigating reports of cognitive impairment from statin use for several years. The agency has reviewed databases that record reports of bad reactions to drugs and statin clinical trials that included assessments of cognitive function.
The reports about memory loss, forgetfulness and confusion span all statin products and all age groups.
Amy G. Egan, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director for safety in FDA’s Division of Metabolism and Endocrinology Products (DMEP)says these experiences are rare but that those affected often report feeling “fuzzy” or unfocused in their thinking.
In general, the symptoms were not serious and were reversible within a few weeks after the patient stopped using the statin. Some people affected in this way had been taking the medicine for a day; others had been taking it for years.
What should patients do if they fear that statin use could be clouding their thinking? “Talk to your health care professional,” Egan says. “Don’t stop taking the medication; the consequences to your heart could be far greater.”
Fat and the Brain
It is not crazy to connect cholesterol-modifying drugs with cognition; after all, one quarter of the body’s cholesterol is found in the brain. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that, among other things, provides structure to the body’s cell membranes. High levels of cholesterol in the blood create a risk for heart disease, because the molecules that transport cholesterol can damage arteries and cause blockages.
In the brain, however, cholesterol plays a crucial role in the formation of neuronal connections—the vital links that underlie memory and learning. Quick thinking and rapid reaction times depend on cholesterol, too, because the waxy molecules are the building blocks of the sheaths that insulate neurons and speed up electrical transmissions.
Risk of cataracts may rise with statin use
In published researchers analyzed data from the British Columbia Ministry of Health databases from 2000-2007. Researchers identified patients taking statins for more than a year prior to an opthalmology exam, and found a 27 percent increased risk of cataracts that required surgery.
The Risk of Diabetes
Diabetes occurs because of defects in the body’s ability to produce or use insulin—a hormone needed to convert food into energy. If the pancreas doesn't make enough insulin or if cells do not respond appropriately to insulin, blood sugar levels in the blood get too high, which can lead to serious health problems.
The FDA reports that a small increased risk of raised blood sugar levels and the development of Type 2 diabetes have been reported with the use of statins.
However, A study involving 153, 840 women and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that women between the ages of 50 – 79 who took statin medicines were 48 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes
The Potential for Muscle Damage
Some drugs interact with statins in a way that increases the risk of muscle injury called myopathy, characterized by unexplained muscle weakness or pain. Egan explains that some new drugs are broken down (metabolized) through the same pathways in the body that statins follow. This increases both the amount of statin in the blood and the risk of muscle injury.
FDA is revising the drug label for Lovastatin to clarify the risk of myopathy. The label will reflect what drugs should not be taken at the same time, and the maximum lovastatin dose if it is not possible to avoid use of those other drugs.
If you suffer any illness or side effect of medication inform and talk to your healthcare professional. Also, patients and health care professionals should report negative side effects from statin or other drug use to FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program. and to the TGA in Australia.
1. Parts of this article appear on FDA's Consumer Update page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.
2. Statin Use and Risk for Cataract: A Nested Case-Control Study of Two Populations in Canada and the United States Canadian Journal of Cardiology, Volume 30, Issue 12 (December 2014),
3. Statin Use and Risk of Diabetes Mellitus in Postmenopausal Women in the Women's Health Initiative. January 23, 2012, Vol 172, No. 2