In the study, Joseph F. Hayes, Ph.D., of University College London and an international team of colleagues analyzed data from the health records of 142,691 Swedish patients aged 15 and older who had an SMI and were treated with psychiatric medication from October 2005 through December 2016. The data also included whether the patients were treated with statins for cholesterol, L-type calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure, or metformin for type 2 diabetes. The researchers then compared rates of self-harm and psychiatric hospitalization in these patients to determine whether they had been taking one of the three types of medications at the time of harming themselves and/or psychiatric hospitalization.
The researchers found that patients who had bipolar disorder and were taking one of the three types of medications were 8% to 20% less likely to experience psychiatric hospitalization and 19% to 27% less likely to harm themselves. Patients with schizophrenia who were taking one of the three types of medications were 20% to 27% less likely to experience psychiatric hospitalization and 36% to 70% less likely to harm themselves. Patients with nonaffective psychosis who were taking statins or metformin were 20% and 15% less likely to experience psychiatric hospitalization, respectively, and those taking L-type calcium channel blockers were 44% less likely to harm themselves.
“Each of these drugs has a theoretical basis for effectively reducing psychiatric symptoms,” Hayes and colleagues wrote. They noted that the three types of medications work on some of the processes thought to cause psychiatric disorders. For example, systemic and neuroinflammation are linked to psychiatric disorders, and statins are anti-inflammatory. Additionally, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes are more common in people with SMI, they noted.
“If substantiated, this study has considerable implications for clinical practice and drug development. The study drugs … are globally licensed, commonly used, cheap, and relatively safe medications. They are therefore ideal candidates for repurposing,” Hayes and colleagues wrote. “Understanding their mode of action on the central nervous system may facilitate better understanding of the pathophysiology of SMI and offer opportunities for innovative pharmacotherapy development.”
For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Psychiatrists Face Barriers to Managing Common Medical Conditions.”