Another angle on the possible neuroprotective effects of statins
Original article: Bayram et al. (2020). Progressive Supranuclear Palsy and Statin Use. Movement Disorders. DOI: 10.1002/mds.28038

The takeaway

A study investigating the potential neuroprotective effects of statins in Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) has found they may be associated with less severe movement problems and a delay in disease onset.

Why is it important?

This study adds to the body of evidence supporting the need for further research into the effects of statins in the context of neurodegenerative conditions.


Statins are a class of drug used to lower cholesterol levels, and are prescribed widely as a means of reducing cardiovascular risk. They also have immune, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which are of great interest in the context of protecting neurons and enhancing their survival. Over the last few years, research on drug repurposing has been focusing on the potential of statins for a variety of neurodegenerative conditions, including Parkinson’s (see the PD-STAT study – link below), and Alzheimer’s disease.


Recently, data from the ENGENE-PSP study on environmental and genetic factors affecting Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, or PSP, were mined to look for associations between the use of statins and risk of this condition. PSP falls under the broad umbrella of Parkinson’s plus syndromes. Although some of the difficulties with walking and balance are shared with Parkinson’s, PSP is not managed with levodopa and, rather than alpha-synuclein which is the main culprit in Parkinson’s, it involves a protein called tau which is linked to Alzheimer’s. Despite these differences, research assessing the neuroprotective potential of statins is still informative for the broader community, including Parkinson’s.

The details

A total of 284 people with PSP, and the same number of unaffected control individuals who were their non-blood relatives or friends, participated in this study. In addition to extensive neurological and neuropsychiatric examination, a detailed medication history was obtained from each participant in this trial. The researchers analysed these data for associations between statin use and PSP risk, as well as the age at which symptoms first appeared and disease features for the PSP subgroup.


While statin use did not affect risk for PSP, the use of statins such as simvastatin was associated with a 1 year delay in the onset of symptoms, which is meaningful given the rapid average 6-year disease course. The researchers also found that statins such as atorvastatin were associated with less severe movement problems.

Next steps

This study was observational, rather than tightly controlled, so accurate information on dose, statin switching, and lipid levels were not available. This limits the conclusions that can be drawn, and a robust, controlled trial for PSP is warranted. The results of the simvastatin trial for Parkinson’s are eagerly awaited.
Bayram et al. (2020). Progressive Supranuclear Palsy and Statin Use. Movement Disorders. DOI: 10.1002/mds.28038


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