New research study on cholesterol-lowering drugs now recruiting adults 75 and older

Older couple chatting
The University of Chicago Medicine is now enrolling patients in a new clinical trial called PREVENTABLE, which will investigate whether taking a statin — a type of cholesterol-lowering drug — can help adults ages 75 and older maintain their health by preventing dementia, disability and heart disease.

UChicago Medicine is one of 100 sites across the country participating in the study, which ultimately hopes to enroll more than 20,000 participants and could be one of the largest studies ever conducted in older adults.

The study is designed to make participation easy and efficient. The study will randomize whether participants receive atorvastatin — a drug commonly used to lower cholesterol, also called Lipitor — or a placebo. The drug will be shipped directly to participants’ homes every three months, and study visits will take place over the phone.

Researchers will also review participants’ electronic health records and Medicare data, and will follow participants for up to five years to test their memory, thinking and physical abilities, and to monitor them for events such as heart attacks or strokes.

“For people who have had a heart attack or stroke, statins are life-saving,” said Tamar Polonsky, MD, MSCI, a UChicago Medicine cardiologist who specializes in preventive cardiology and is the site leader for the trial. “Statins lower cholesterol very efficiently, and they also lower inflammation. Some studies have shown that this might help cognition in older adults, but it has not been studied in a systematic way. This trial will help us answer that question.”

UChicago Medicine hopes to enroll 375 adults in the study over the next three years. Coordinators are working to ensure participants from all backgrounds are included in the study. Locally, UChicago Medicine is working closely with Rush University Medical Center and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

PREVENTABLE differs from other drug trials in several ways, Polonsky said. First, it does not involve taking a new drug; statins have been shown to be extremely safe and effective. Second, it involves older adults, who often do not participate in clinical trials.

“Some studies involve groundbreaking research into new pathways or genes, but another very important part of research is figuring out how best to use the treatments we already have,” Polonsky said. “People are living longer, and we want to keep them healthier for as long as possible. By participating in PREVENTABLE, older adults have an opportunity to help us understand how to maximize brain health as we age.”

About one in three people in the U.S. over the age of 75 without heart disease is taking statins, so in addition to learning whether statins can prolong health in older adults, the PREVENTABLE study will help clarify which older adults might benefit the most from taking statins.

Those who are already taking a statin are not eligible for the study.

PREVENTABLE is funded by the National Institute of Aging and the National Heart, Lung, & Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award number U19AG065188. To learn more about PREVENTABLE, visit

For more information on enrolling in the trial, call 210-908-7749 or email
Tamar Polonsky, MD

Tammy Polonsky, MD

Tamar Polonsky, MD, MSCI, is a general cardiologist. She treats a wide range of cardiac conditions, including coronary artery disease, hypertension, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) and valve disease.

Learn more about Dr. Polonsky
Dr. Polonsky and patient

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