PURPOSE: To examine the association between use of statins and risk of deterioration of peripheral nerve function.
METHODS: We prospectively followed patients who initiated statin treatment and compared them with statin never-users (non-users). At the time of inclusion and at 1-year follow-up, participants underwent tests for peripheral nerve function (ie nerve conduction studies, quantitative sensory testing), skin biopsies and ratings of symptoms and signs of neuropathy. We selected five tests of nerve function and the intraepidermal nerve fibre density (IENFD) a priori as primary outcomes. We used linear regression to test for differences between statin users and non-users with Holm-Bonferroni-corrected statistical significance level of .05.
RESULTS: Comparisons were based on 57 statin users and 46 non-users. Changes in nerve function test results during follow-up were not uniform with regard to direction and were statistically not significant with the exception of IENFD (change in IENFD: statin users 1 fibre/mm vs. non-statin users -2 fibres/mm; P-value = .006). None of the participants developed overt peripheral neuropathy. However, five statin users developed neuropathy-like symptoms and a post hoc analysis showed a significant decrease in vibration sensitivity compared to asymptomatic statin users.
CONCLUSION: Statin use was not clearly associated with increased risk of deterioration of peripheral nerve function analysed at a group level. However, given the sample size limitations of our study and the findings of our post hoc analysis, we cannot preclude that peripheral nerve function may be affected in some individuals exposed to statins.