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.
Suicide can’t be predicted by asking about suicidal thoughts : Study
Most people who died of suicide deny they experience suicidal thoughts when asked by doctors in the weeks and months leading up to their death, a major Australian study has found.
The findings, co-authored by clinical psychiatrist and Professor Matthew Large from UNSW’s School of Psychiatry, Sydney that published in the journal BJPsych Open The meta-analysis challenge the widely-held assumption that psychiatrists can predict who will suicide by asking if they are preoccupied with thoughts of killing themselves.
The study showed that 80% of patients who were not undergoing psychiatric treatment and who died of suicide reported not to have suicidal thoughts when asked by their psychiatrist or GP.
“If you meet someone who has suicidal ideation there is a 98 per cent chance that they are not going to suicide,” said Professor Large, an international expert on suicide risk assessment who also works in the emergency department of a major Sydney hospital.
“But what we didn’t know was how frequently people who go on to suicide have denied having suicidal thoughts when asked directly,” he added.
“This study proves we can no longer ration psychiatric care based on the presence of suicidal thoughts alone. We need to provide high-quality, patient-centred care for everyone experiencing mental illness, whether or not they reveal they are experiencing suicidal thoughts,” Professor Large said.
About one in 10 people will have suicidal ideation in their lifetime. But the study showed suicidal ideation alone was not rational grounds for deciding who gets treatment and who does not, Professor Large said.
“We know that suicide feeling is pretty common and that suicide is actually a rare event, even among people with severe mental illness,” Professor Large added.
Suicidal ideation tells us an awful lot about how a person is feeling, their psychological distress, sometimes their diagnosis and their need for treatment but it’s not a meaningful test of future behaviour.
Suicidal feelings can fluctuate rapidly and people may suicide very impulsively after only a short period of suicidal thoughts.
But, people had good reasons not to disclose thoughts of suicide, fearing stigma, triggering over-reactions or upsetting family and friends, and being involuntarily admitted for psychiatric treatment, Professor Large said.
Professor Large emphasized that clinicians should not assume that patients experiencing mental distress without reporting suicidal ideas were not at elevated risk of suicide.