Pharmaceutical companies can breathe a bit easier today. A massive study is pushing back on the assertion statins cause short-term memory loss in patients starting the cholesterol-lowering drugs.

Researchers, whose work was published in the journal Internal Medicine, are placing the blame for the long-held claim on ‘detection bias.’ If you are starting any drug for a chronic illness, visits to the doctor are up initially. It’s normal for you to be paying attention to any possible ill effect statins are presenting.

The ‘where the hell are my keys’ type questions quickly become associated with the new the drug. Your doctor asks if there have been any changes, and this jumps to the top of the list.

We all do it. I’m guilty of looking at any and everything when I first start a prescription drug. Thanks, WebMD…

The study just points out human nature. It also provides research for primary care doctors to calm patients who are worried about the potential memory side effect.

Statin Memory Loss Study

Researchers studied nearly a million people, and concluded statins probably don’t cause any short-term memory loss.

The study compared 482,542 patients on statins with an equal number of patients not using any cholesterol-lowering drugs. Also, a group of 26,484 on non-statin cholesterol-lowering drugs were studied.

statins cholesterol memory loss

Participants in the statin group reported incidences of memory loss, while those not taking any cholesterol medication did not. The research damn near proved a memory loss connection.

That is until you add the third group on non-statin drugs. The same incidence of self-reported short-term memory loss was present in this group. Either all cholesterol drugs cause memory loss, or there is detection bias happening.

The difference between statins and non-statins lies in the structure of the drug. Each drug class is completely different, and for both to have the same memory loss side effect is unlikely.

Brian Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, explained the detection bias theory in a press release.

“When patients are put on statins or any new drug, they’re seen more often by their doctor, or they themselves are paying attention to whether anything is wrong. So if they have a memory problem, they’re going to notice it. Even if it has nothing to do with the drug, they’re going to blame it on the drug.”

How Does the Study Impact You

If you are starting statins to control high cholesterol, be aware of any potential side effects. Science isn’t perfect, and when it comes to your health, ask. And then ask again.

The study concluded statins ‘most likely’ do not cause short-term memory loss. Nearly all health studies hedge on conclusions. When talking about your health, maybe it is time to get your online degree from WebMD.

It’s your health. There isn’t a better example for erring on the side of caution. Plus, you get to make those skyrocketing health premiums count.


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