June 15 (UPI) -- Penn State College of Medicine researchers found the use of statins may actually speed up the onset of Parkinson's disease symptoms rather than prevent them.
Numerous previous studies suggested that statins, which are used to treat high cholesterol, might protect against Parkinson's disease, with some studies showing a lower risk, some no change and some showing a higher risk of the disease.
"One of the reasons that may have explained these prior inconsistent results is that higher cholesterol, the main indication to use statins, has been related to lower occurrence of Parkinson's disease," Xuemei Huang, professor of neurology at Penn State College of Medicine, said in a press release. "This made it hard to know if the statin protective effect was due to the drug or preexisting cholesterol status."
Researchers analyzed data from a database of insurance claims for more than 50 million individuals and identified 22,000 people with Parkinson's disease, and eventually narrowed their focus to 2,322 patients with newly diagnosed Parkinson's.
Researchers identified patients who had been taking a statin and for how long before Parkinson's disease symptoms began.
"Statin use was associated with higher, not lower, Parkinson's disease risk, and the association was more noticeable for lipophilic statins, an observation inconsistent with the current hypothesis that these statins protect nerve cells," Huang said. "In addition, this association was most robust for use of statins less than two-and-a-half years, suggesting that statins may facilitate the onset of Parkinson's disease."
A recent study suggested that people who stopped statin use were more likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
"Our new data suggests a different explanation," Huang said. "Use of statins may lead to new Parkinson's disease-related symptoms, thus causing patients to stop using statins. We are not saying that statins cause Parkinson's disease, but rather that our study suggests that statins should not be used based on the idea that they will protect against Parkinson's,"
The study was published in the June edition of Movement Disorders.