Deciding to stop taking cholesterol drugs can affect more than your cardiovascular system. New research shows people who stop taking certain kinds of statin medications may be at an increased risk for developing Parkinson's disease.
The findings — published online in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology — are based on a study of 43,810 people in Taiwan who were taking statins, but stopped the drugs after their cholesterol levels reached acceptable levels.
Taiwan's compulsory national health insurance program reimbursement policy directs doctors to stop prescribing statins once a patient's cholesterol reaches the treatment goal, unlike standard treatment in the United States.
"This policy allowed us to see whether there was any difference in the risk of Parkinson's in people who stopped taking statins compared to the ones who kept taking them," said lead researcher Jou-Wei Lin, M.D., of National Taiwan University in Taipei.
The researchers examined two different types of statins — fat-soluble drugs such as simvastatin and atorvastatin and water-soluble medications such as pravastatin and rosuvastatin. The results showed the use of fat-soluble statins was linked to a reduced risk of Parkinson's, while no such association was found for the water-soluble drugs.
In addition, the researchers found people who stopped taking the fat-soluble statins were 58 percent more likely to develop Parkinson's disease than those who kept taking the drugs. This finding held true even after adjusting for other conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
Dr. Lin suggested the fat-soluble statins may have an impact on blood vessels in the brain in ways that may offer protection against Parkinson’s.
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