WEDNESDAY, Feb. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Patients who have heart
disease and take cholesterol-lowering medicines known as statins
are less likely to develop depression than those not on such drugs,
a new study suggests.
For the study, Dr. Mary Whooley of the San Francisco VA Medical
Center and colleagues evaluated 965 heart disease patients for
depression. The researchers found those taking statins were less
likely to be depressed.
Next, they followed the 776 who were not depressed for another
six years. Of those, 520 were taking statins; the others were
While 18.5 percent of those on statins developed depression
during the follow-up, 28 percent of those not on the medicines
developed depression, which translates to a 38 percent reduced risk
of developing depression, Whooley said.
The study is published online Feb. 21 in the
Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
While the study found a link between statin use and a reduced
risk of depression, it did not prove that the drugs help patients
avoid mental health problems.
The message is not to take statins for depression risk, Whooley
said, but that a possible benefit of the drugs, when they are
needed, is to reduce depression risk. "Statins are great for
cholesterol, and do not have any harmful effects on mood, but
should not be used to treat depression," she noted.
Statin use is very common. In the United States, about 36
million patients are eligible for statin prescriptions for heart
disease prevention, Whooley added.
Statin drugs include Lipitor (atorvastatin), Lescol
(fluvastatin), Pravachol (pravastatin), Crestor (rosuvastatin),
Zocor (simvastatin), Altoprev and Mevacor (lovastatin).
On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an
update on statins, warning consumers that some statin users report
memory loss, some have elevated blood sugar levels and other
The effects of the drugs on psychological well-being have been a
topic of controversy, Whooley's team said.
Exactly how the drugs may confer protection against depression
isn't known. Whooley said it is possible that statins' effects on
the inner lining of blood vessels may play a role. The statins make
the vessels less rigid, perhaps helping them adapt to the body's
changing needs, she said.
It could also be that those who take statins are healthier
overall than those who do not. The researchers tried to account for
other lifestyle factors, such as exercise, she noted.
Whooley's study was not funded by drug companies. One co-author,
Dr. Christian Otte, is on the speaker's board of AstraZeneca,
Lundbeck and Servier, makers of statins or antidepressants.
Dr. Bryan Bruno, acting chair of psychiatry at Lenox Hill
Hospital in New York City, reviewed the new study findings and said
that the results may give heart patients motivation to take their
"You obviously can't confer any cause and effect" from the study, Bruno said. The researchers only found an association.
In consumer health information provided by the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration, the agency said that some statin users report
memory loss. The FDA also said that routine screening of liver
enzymes is no longer needed while on statins. This is because the
monitoring, once standard, has not been found effective in
predicting the rare liver-injury problems. The agency also warns
that some medicines interact with some statins in a way that
increases the risk of muscle injury.
To learn more about
statins, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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