Statins for the treatment of depression: A meta-analysis of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials

Estela Salagre, Brisa S. Fernandes, Seetal Dodd, Daniel J. Brownstein, Michael Berk

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Background In epidemiological studies, statins appear to benefit mood, and there are now some randomized controlled trials examining the efficacy of statins. However, the role of statins in depression remains uncertain. Thus the aim of this paper was to assess the effect of statins on depressive symptoms by performing a meta-analysis of all double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled clinical trials (RCT) conducted in subjects with depression. Methods A systematic search was executed using PubMed and in November 30th, 2015 for all double-blind, RCT of statins versus placebo in persons with depressive symptoms. Sixty-seven potential articles were identified through search of electronic databases, of those three met inclusion criteria and were included in the meta-analysis. The outcome measure was change in Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) scores associated with statin use. A meta-analysis was conducted and standardized mean differences (SMDs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated. GRADE was used to assess study quality. Results The three articles included provided data on 165 participants with moderate to severe depression. Of these, 82 were randomized to statins as an adjuvant therapy to antidepressant treatment (i.e.; citalopram or fluoxetine) and 83 to the placebo arm. All studies were double-blind RCTs, with a follow-up of 6-12 weeks. The statin agents evaluated were lovastatin, atorvastatin, and simvastatin. When compared to placebo, statins, as add-on to treatment as usual, largely improved depressive symptoms as assessed by the HDRS (SMD=-0.73, 95% IC -1.04 to -0.42, p<0.001, 3 between-group comparisons, n=165). No serious adverse effects were reported. Conclusions Our results suggest that adjunctive treatment with statins could be useful for the treatment of depressive symptoms. Additional double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trials are necessary to settle the matter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-242
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Depression
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Inflammation
  • Meta-analysis
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Statins
  • Systematic review
  • Treatment

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