Simvastatin and Memory Loss

by on May 18, 2012

Cognitive impairment or memory loss issues are one of the potential adverse side effects of Simvastatin (Zocor, Simvacor) and other 'statins' like it.  Hundreds of cases of cognitive problems due to statin use have been filed to MedWatch, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) system for reporting adverse drug events.

The FDA said that cholesterol-reducing drugs can potentially increase the users’ risk of brain-related effects particularly confusion and memory loss. In general, the reports have not been serious and negative effects resolve once the drug is discontinued.

However, because of the ever present risk, the FDA had recently (in early 2012) added a new safety warning with regards to the use of simvastatin (Zocor). These recent changes in the prescribing information apply to other antilipemic statin drugs such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin/ezetimibe (Vytorin), and rosuvastatin (Crestor). The new recommendations are based on the results of recent clinical studies and reports of negative effects from manufacturers, healthcare providers and patients.

How Simvastatin Causes Memory Loss?

It is thought that simvastatin affects the brain by interfering with the production of cholesterol necessary for healthy brain. Take note that the brain is abundant in cholesterol, majority of it is found in the myelin sheath which coats the nerve cells and speeds up brain processes. Furthermore, cholesterol is essential in the formation of various brain cells. Unfortunately, cholesterol-lowering drugs can significantly affect the supply of such a crucial compound hence predisposing the patient to cognitive impairment.

What Studies Say?

In a clinical study conducted on 60 patients taking statins, including simvastatin, about 50% reported cognitive adverse effects within 2 months of initiating treatment. About half of these patients noted improvement when the medication was stopped. In some patients whom the drug has been resumed, a recurrence of memory issues has been noted.

On the contrary, earlier studies suggest a conflicting result as to the effects of simvastatin on memory loss. Clinical studies link simvastatin with memory loss while observational studies indicate that it decreases the risk of dementia. There are also some studies that show that statins do not have direct effect on the user’s cognitive functions.

In general, however, medical experts support the FDA’s new prescribing recommendations for simvastatin. Although cases of cognitive side effects are rare, they are serious negative effects that must be considered when prescribing or taking this drug.


Take note that simvastatin-induced cognitive impairment or memory loss does not diminish the importance of this drug in the prevention of potentially life-threatening cardiovascular diseases. For most people, the benefits of statins far outweigh the perceived risks.

If you notice any change or deterioration in your cognitive function after taking simvastatin, particularly memory loss or memory gap, consult your healthcare provider right away. Furthermore, compliance with the recommended cholesterol-lowering activities, aside from medications, would greatly help reduce your dependence to this medication. Lifestyle changes together with simvastatin can help curb abnormally high lipid levels thereby reducing the need to take this drug.