Megha S. Yatham, B.Sc., of the University of Manchester and colleagues reviewed data from 10 clinical trials of statins in which participants were randomized to at least one statin or placebo. The trials measured depressive symptoms using scales such as the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, and Geriatric Depression Scale, among others. The primary outcome was the difference in end-of-trial depression scores between participants who took statins and those who took placebo. Participants in three of the trials had been diagnosed with depression, and seven of the trials were conducted in nondepressed participants. In total, 1,348 participants received statins in the trials and 1,169 received placebo.
Yatham and colleagues found that statin use was associated with significantly lower scores on depression rating scales compared with placebo, but only among participants who had been diagnosed with depression. Although statin use was associated with improved scores in nondepressed participants as well, this difference was not enough for the researchers to consider the improvement statistically significant.
“Although the exact mechanisms by which statins might improve depressive symptoms is unknown, the leading theory is that statins decrease the inflammation and oxidative stress reported to be commonly associated with depression,” the researchers wrote. “While the results of the current meta-analysis are very promising and supportive of [the] benefits of statin therapy, further research and trials with larger sample sizes need to be conducted in order to fully explore the benefits of statins in depressed and nondepressed populations.”
For related news, see the American Journal of Psychiatry article “The Effect of Concomitant Treatment With SSRIs and Statins: A Population-Based Study.”