Statins associated with decreased risk of depressive symptoms

May 1, 2012

Patients with coronary heart disease who used statins were at a decreased risk of depression; whether there is a cause-and effect relationship, however, merits further research, according to a study published online February 21 in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

Patients with coronary heart disease who used statins were at a decreased risk of depression; whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship, however, merits further research, according to a study published online February 21 in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

The benefits of hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) are well established in the treatment of coronary artery disease as well as in reducing risk of stroke, osteoporosis, and some cancers. They are the most commonly prescribed medication world-wide; however, their effect on depressive symptoms are unknown, and whether they hold any potential psychological benefit has been the subject of controversy, stated lead author Christian Otte, MD, Charité University Medical Center, Berlin, department of psychiatry and psychotherapy, and colleagues.

To evaluate the potential association between statins and depressive symptoms, the authors measured depressive symptoms annually for 6 years in 965 outpatients with stable coronary heart disease from 12 outpatient clinics in the San Francisco Bay Area. A 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ) was used to measure depressive symptoms.

Of the 965 patients, the authors noted that 629 used statins and were found to have lower mean ± SE PHQ depression scores than nonusers (4.8 ± 0.2 vs 5.9 ± 0.3, P<.01). They also were less likely than nonusers to have depression (PHQ score ≥10) at baseline (17% vs 24%; P= 02) and during follow-up (28% vs 40%; P<.01).

The findings raise the possibility that statins may prevent depressive symptoms in patients with cardiovascular disease, the authors stated; however, the potential mechanisms by which they exert effects are unclear and should be the subject of further study. In addition, the authors stress that the data do not demonstrate causality.

"Statins are great for cholesterol, and do not have any harmful effects on mood, but should not be used to treat depression," Dr Otte said.