Baylor Scott & White

A Temple hospital is now recruiting for a long-term study that aims at finding a way to combat the onset of dementia in patients older than 75.

Baylor Scott & White Research Institute announced it is a part of a nation-wide study, which will look at the effects of the drug atorvastatin over a five-year period.

The study hopes to include more than 20,000 participants, at 100 sites all over the country. Participants will receive a range of tests for both their cognitive and physical abilities while also being monitored for heart attacks and strokes.

Dr. Catherine McNeal, a principal investigator for the study at Baylor Scott & White, said the long-term length of the study was important due to the nature of mental diseases.

“It takes several years to see improvement or worsening in cognition usually,” McNeal said. “So the small studies that we have show that statins seem to prevent against dementia. This study is a very large national study aimed to really address that question, and we hope that it will show what is good for the heart is good for the brain.”

Atorvastatin is commonly used to lower cholesterol and is under the brand name of Lipitor.

McNeal said the hope of the study is for the drug to lower cholesterol near the brain, reducing the stress that the organ is put under. With this lower stress level, the brain can be healthier, and dementia is less likely to happen as a result.

Due to the long nature of the study, McNeal said a large number of volunteers are needed because many will drop out, die or go on medications that might interfere with the study.

McNeal said the study plans on selecting those who are older than 75 and have not had a history of heart disease or high blood pressure. She said those who currently have been diagnosed with dementia will be excluded from the trial.

While those currently with these conditions won’t be able to participate, McNeal said she does encourage those who have a family history of either condition to look into the trial.

Participants are able to participate in the trial over the phone, completing their tests remotely, with the pills shipped to them once every three months.

McNeal said getting individuals to participate in this type of study is hard both due to the length and the fact that half of participants will get the real medication and the rest will receive a placebo.

Researchers need these two groups to compare against each other to see if the drug is working in the way that is intended. McNeal said this study will be the first of its size to look at the correlation of dementia and this drug.

“It requires a very significant commitment of people, they have to be very altruistic people to be willing to undertake this study and to know that they might not get a benefit of it,” McNeal. “I think that it is going to be a difficult study to convince these 75-year-olds, who have lived perfectly well and do not want to take one additional pill, to help us know what is going to be better in the future.”

Dr. Karen Alexander, a geriatric cardiologist at Duke University Medical Center and principal investigator for the study, said it will help give valuable answers to how people age and how the disease can be combated.

“This study will help to clarify the benefit of statins for this population,” she said. “This is important to do before adding one more medication to the list of medicines older adults are often already taking.”

People interested in finding out more about who can participate in the study may call the Baylor Scott & White Research Institute at 888-507-3732.

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