New research points to a possible link between the LDL cholesterol-lowering statin drugs (HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors) and Parkinson’s disease. Such is the concern that a study involving thousands of people is planned to assess the risk, according to a report in Chemistry & Industry today.
Earlier research had hinted at a putative link between Parkinson’s disease and statins, but the latest results from a study linking low LDL cholesterol itself to PD provides the strongest evidence to date that the link could be real.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina say that patients with low LDL cholesterol levels are more than three and a half times as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease as those with higher LDL levels.
Study leader Xuemei Huang told C&I: “I am very concerned by these findings, which is why I am planning a 16000-patient prospective study to examine the possible role of statins.” Huang was quick to point out, however, that a causal link with statins had not yet been proven. Huang adds that the well-established link between PD and apoE2, a gene associated with lower LDL cholesterol, supports her theory that low LDL is the culprit in many cases of PD.
Yoav Ben-Shlomo, a professor of clinical epidemiology at the University of Bristol suggests a contrary explanation. It could be that low LDL cholesterol levels are a consequence rather than a cause of PD, he says.
Nevertheless, statins have been in common use for more than a decade and Huang worries that if proved right we will see a big surge in the number of diagnoses of PD during the next five years.
Pfizer’s statin Lipitor is the world’s best-selling drug with $12.2 billion in sales in 2005.