Zocor Fails To Treat Depression in Clinical Trial

Use of Zocor, which has been linked to a number of health concerns, such as diabetes, would have likely significantly increased if it could be used to treat depression.

A new study found no evidence that the cholesterol drug Zocor has any effect treating depression, despite previous smaller studies that showed promising results for the potential off-label use of the blockbuster statin-based medication.

Researchers from Canada and Pakistan indicate that there were no difference in the outcomes of patients being treated for depression with Zocor, regardless of whether they were given a 20mg dose or a placebo. Their findings were published this month in JAMA Network Open.

Zocor (simvastatin) belongs to a class of drugs known as statins, which are used to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, and are some of the best-selling drugs in the United States and the world. Drugs like Zocor, Crestor and Lipitor bring in about $1 trillion in worldwide sales each year.

In this new study, an international team of scientists sought to confirm earlier studies which suggested some individuals with treatment-resistant depression (TRD) may be affected by immune-metabolic dysfunction, which Zocor has been used to treat. It was hoped that using Zocor would help restore those functions, which would then result in less symptoms of depression.

The researchers conducted a 12-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial in five centers across Pakistan. They randomly divided 150 patients with TRD into a group which would get a 20mg dose of Zocor, and a group which would just get a placebo.

According to their findings, however, there was no difference in the reduction of depression between those who got the placebo, and those who were actually given the Zocor dose. There was also no difference in adverse health effects, the researchers noted.

“In this randomized clinical trial, simvastatin provided no additional therapeutic benefit for depressive symptoms in TRD compared with standard care,” the researchers concluded.

Statin Side Effects Concerns

Cholesterol drugs like Lipitor and Zocor have become commonly used medications throughout the U.S. However, a number of medical experts raised concerns about overuse of the medications in 2013, warning that significant increases in prescribing and use of statins could lead to one of the “worst disasters” in medical history.

Many patients are misdiagnosed with heart risks, leading millions of Americans to be given the wrong treatments including being given drugs like Lipitor and Zocor.

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If trials did show Zocor could be used to treat depression, statins’ already widespread use would likely increase significantly as the U.S. deals with a mental health crisis following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Another study published in 2018 warned taking statins like Lipitor increased the risk a person would suffer rhabdomyolysis, a condition damaging muscle cells and leading to an increased risk of death. Previous studies have also linked drugs like Zocor to an increased risk of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers have also warned that enzymes affected by statins are also tied to blood sugar, and some have found a dose-specific response between Lipitor and similar drugs and an increased risk of diabetes, raising worries that the very drugs doctors may be suggesting to avoid heart disease could actually end up causing it and other health problems in some patients.

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