Widely used drugs may help treat serious mental illness


  • Mary Corcoran
  • Univadis Medical News
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New findings suggest that a number of medicines used to treat common physical health problems may also benefit people with serious mental illness (SMI). 

As part of a new study, researchers examined health data records of 142,691 patients in Sweden with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or non-affective psychosis. They investigated if the patients had lower rates of psychiatric hospitalisation and self-harm during periods when they were prescribed hydroxymethyl glutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (HMG-CoA RIs), L-type calcium channel (LTCC) antagonists and biguanides. 

They found that exposure to any of the study drugs was associated with reduced rates of psychiatric hospitalisation compared with unexposed periods. Furthermore, self-harm was reduced in patients with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia during exposure to all study drugs and in patients with non-affective psychosis taking L-type calcium channel antagonists.

"Our research provides additional evidence that exposure to HMG-CoA RIs, LTCC antagonists, and biguanides might lead to improved outcomes for individuals with SMI,” said lead author, Dr Joseph Hayes from University College London in the UK. "Given these drugs are commonly used and well-known to doctors they should be further investigated as repurposed agents for psychiatric symptoms."

The findings are published in JAMA Psychiatry