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Commonly used heart, diabetes drugs may help ease mental illness


Commonly used drugs to combat physical health diseases, such as, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes could bring significant benefits to people with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or non-affective psychoses, according to a study led by University College London (UCL).

The researchers say their findings have “enormous potential”. But they, and independent experts, say the results now need to be tested in clinical trials.

The study published in JAMA Psychiatry assessed the health data records of over 142,000 Swedish patients with serious mental illnesses — including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

The starting point for the researchers was a list of currently prescribed medications that science predicts could also help patients with severe mental health disorders.

The researchers found that those patients typically fared better during periods when they were taking certain medications to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes.

The study focused on those patients who had either been prescribed Hydroxylmethyl glutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (HMG-CoA RIs), more commonly known as statins—which are used to reduce cholesterol/heart disease, L-type calcium channel antagonists (LTCC), used to reduce high blood pressure, or biguanides (such as metformin), used to treat diabetes.

“Serious mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder, are associated with high levels of morbidity and are challenging to treat,” Lead author, Dr. Joseph Hayes (UCL Psychiatry), said, “Many widely used drugs, such as statins, have long been identified as having the potential for repurposing to benefit these disorders.”

“Many widely used drugs, such as statins, have long been identified as having the potential for repurposing to benefit these disorders,” Dr Hayes added.

This study is the first to use large population data sets to compare patient’s exposure to these commonly used drugs and the potential effects on people with serious mental illnesses.

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