Mendelian Randomization Study of PCSK9 and HMG-CoA Reductase Inhibition and Cognitive Function

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2022 Aug 16;80(7):653-662. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2022.05.041.


Background: Lipid-lowering therapy with statins and proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibition are effective strategies in reducing cardiovascular disease risk; however, concerns remain about potential long-term adverse neurocognitive effects.

Objectives: This genetics-based study aimed to evaluate the relationships of long-term PCSK9 inhibition and statin use on neurocognitive outcomes.

Methods: We extracted single-nucleotide polymorphisms in 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR) and PCSK9 from predominantly European ancestry-based genome-wide association studies summary-level statistics of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and performed drug-target Mendelian randomization, proxying the potential neurocognitive impact of drug-based PCSK9 and HMGCR inhibition using a range of outcomes to capture the complex facets of cognition and dementia.

Results: Using data from a combined sample of ∼740,000 participants, we observed a neutral cognitive profile related to genetic PCSK9 inhibition, with no significant effects on cognitive performance, memory performance, or cortical surface area. Conversely, we observed several adverse associations for HMGCR inhibition with lowered cognitive performance (beta: -0.082; 95% CI: -0.16 to -0.0080; P = 0.03), reaction time (beta = 0.00064; 95% CI: 0.00030-0.00098; P = 0.0002), and cortical surface area (beta = -0.18; 95% CI: -0.35 to -0.014; P = 0.03). Neither PCSK9 nor HMGCR inhibition impacted biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease progression or Lewy body dementia risk. Consistency of findings across Mendelian randomization methods accommodating different assumptions about genetic pleiotropy strengthens causal inference.

Conclusions: Using a wide range of cognitive function and dementia endpoints, we failed to find genetic evidence of an adverse PCSK9-related impact, suggesting a neutral cognitive profile. In contrast, we observed adverse neurocognitive effects related to HMGCR inhibition, which may well be outweighed by the cardiovascular benefits of statin use, but nonetheless may warrant pharmacovigilance.

Keywords: 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A [HMG-CoA] reductase; Alzheimer’s disease; Mendelian randomization; dementia; neurocognition; proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9.

MeSH terms

  • Acyl Coenzyme A
  • Alzheimer Disease* / genetics
  • Cognition
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors* / adverse effects
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis
  • Proprotein Convertase 9 / genetics


  • Acyl Coenzyme A
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A
  • PCSK9 protein, human
  • Proprotein Convertase 9