Pfizer Australia – the manufacturer of the nation’s most prescribed cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor, responds to a report on Channel 7’s Today Tonight concerning anecdotal reports of impaired cognitive function and an increased incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease in people taking the “Statin” group of anti-cholesterol medicines.
Pfizer states that there is minimal evidence that demonstrates that people using "statins" are at risk for cognitive impairment. Spontaneous reports of memory changes associated with any cholesterol-lowering treatment are rare, and only provide a possible signal of adverse events occurring in the community. While more study may be required, it is important to note that a causal relationship between Atorvastatin (Lipitor), Simvastatin (Zocor, Lipex, Simvar), Pravastatin (Pravachol) and Fluvastatin (Lescol) and cases of memory changes has not been established.
There are numerous risk factors associated with memory changes. Many patients on "statin" treatment have risk factors for cardiovascular disease that are the same as the risk factors for dementia, such as elevated cholesterol, hypertension and advancing age. The risk of therapy with the statins must be weighed against their considerable benefits.
There is a proven public health benefit for the use of statins in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease which remains the leading cause of death in Australia. In addition, Pfizer's drug – Lipitor – has a well-establsihed safety profile, supported by vast clinical and "real-world" experience gathered from 75 million users of the drug world-wide.
The Today Tonight coverage was based on limited anecdotal cases, and does not take into account evidence from properly conducted scientific studies. These studies have described an association between atherosclerosis and Alzheimner's Disease. In addition, these studies have revealed that patients with an elevated cholesterol have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease. Interestingly some observational studies indicate that there may be a beneficial impact of statins on cognitive function. Preliminary findings from a recent trial suggest that treatment with Lipitor 80mg daily may delay the progression of cognitive decline compared to placebo in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. Other prospective clinical trials are on-going and should yield more definitive results. Please note that Lipitor is NOT indicated for the treatment or prevention of dementia.
If you would like more detailed information on the issue contact the Pfizer Medical Information Department on 1800 675 229 or speak with your doctor.