Got Mood Swings? Blame it on Statins
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25 June 2001
By KV Ramana
Drugs to keep your cholesterol level in control may give you nasty mood swings, depression and suicidal tendencies. Under scrutiny of scientists the world over for sometime, there is definite proof of the side–effects of such drugs now.A team of scientists at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad has found the link between statins, cholesterol–lowering drugs, with certain brain functions.
“There is cholesterol both in the body and the brain. Statins lower the cholesterol in the brain as well. While doing so, it affects the functioning of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that helps control mood and behaviour,” said Amitabha Chattopadhyay, a scientist at the CCMB.
Chattopadhyay leads the group of scientists on the project.
The research has shown that long–term use of the drug causes significant changes in the structure and function of serotonin receptors leading to depression, anxiety and, in some cases, suicidal tendencies, he added.
Statins drugs are the most sold in the world, with an estimated annual turnover of $25 billion. In India, the drugs rake in about Rs1,000 crore for the pharma companies. Though it is still not known whether all statins have an impact on the brain due to their impact on serotonin, scientists believe most of them would have some impact.
“There is something called a blood–brain barrier. Some statins may not cross the barrier thereby not affecting the cholesterol in the brain but others are likely to get across to affect the levels of brain cholesterol,” he said.
He admitted that the research is still at an early stage. The CCMB scientists are planning to go ahead with experiment on animal models shortly to come out with more precise answers to some of the questions.
Ch Mohan Rao, the CCMB’s director, did not rule out the efficacy of statins in fighting cholesterol. According to him, they have been a wonderful group of drugs. “There is no doubt that statins have been saving many lives but every drug will have some side–effect. In this case, it’s the mood related disorder.”
The CCMB’s findings will help bringing out some novel drugs, probably a combination medicine, with a component to treat depression as well in future, he said.
“The demographics might influence the side–effects of statins. Additionally, the person’s genotype too has an influence. It is not correct to say that all those using statins will have these side–effects, but the number is significant,” he explained.