Can statins prevent or help treat Alzheimer's disease?

J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20(3):925-33. doi: 10.3233/JAD-2010-091570.


Evidence accumulating from biological and epidemiological studies suggests that high levels of serum cholesterol may promote the pathological processes that lead to Alzheimer's disease (AD). Lowering cholesterol in experimental animal models slows the expression of Alzheimer's pathology. These findings raise the possibility that treating humans with cholesterol lowering medications might reduce the risk of developing AD or help treat it. The statins (lovastatin, pravastatin, simvastatin, and others) are powerful cholesterol lowering agents of proven benefit in vascular disease. Several clinical studies comparing the occurrence of AD between users and non-users of statins suggested that risk of AD was substantially reduced among the users. However, because these studies were not randomized trials, they provided insufficient evidence to recommend statin therapy. Cochrane reviews are based on the best available information about healthcare interventions and they focus primarily on randomized controlled trials (RCTs). On the issue of prevention, two randomized trials have been carried out and neither showed any reduction in occurrence of AD in patients treated with statins compared to those given placebo. Statins cannot therefore be recommended for the prevention of AD. Regarding treatment of AD, the large RCTs which have assessed this outcome have not published their results. Initial analysis from the studies available indicate statins have no benefit on the outcome measure ADAS-Cog but have a significant beneficial effect on MMSE as an outcome. We need to await full results from the RCTs before we can be certain. In addition statins were not detrimental to cognition in either systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / complications
  • Alzheimer Disease / prevention & control*
  • Animals
  • Cholesterol / metabolism
  • Cognition Disorders / etiology
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Cholesterol