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Cheap, commonly used medicine can help treat mental illness

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Mental illness has become one of the major epidemic in the 21st century that mocks the huge steps made in medicine and technology.

Young people are more prone to suffer mental illness than the older counterparts courtesy of wide range of social media platforms, change of lifestyle, substance abuse, lack of employment and stress.

As World Health Organization reports that over 450 million people globally suffer from mental disorders, 40 percent of in-patients in Kenya health facilities are afflicted with various kinds of mental illness. It is reported that only one person out of six people seek medical attention for mental illness.

However, a team of researchers from the University College London (UCL), Karolinska Institute Sweden and University of Hong Kong have revealed that cheap medications commonly used to combat physical health diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease could result in significant benefit to people with serious mental illnesses.

The study published in JAMA Psychiatry found that patients exposed to Hydroxylmethyl glutaryl coenzyme (HMG-CoA RIs), commonly known as statins that is 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 had a reduced rates of psychiatric hospitalization.

According to Dr Joseph Hayes UCL Psychiatry and the lead author of the study, serious mental illnesses have high levels of morbidity and are challenging to treat but the widely used drugs such as statins have been noted to have the potential for repurposing to benefit mental disorders.

These three drugs are globally licensed commonly used, cheap and relatively safe for medication.


“Our research provides additional evidence that exposure to HMG-CoA RIs, LTCC antagonists, and biguanides might lead to improved outcomes for individuals with mental illnesses. Since these drugs are commonly used and doctors are familiar with them, they should be investigated as repurposed agents for psychiatric symptoms,” said Dr Hayes.

The mentioned drugs have been found to have effect on the central nervous system, but the mechanism of action is yet to be understood by the researchers. However, a clear understanding of how these drugs work on mental illnesses may lead to a development of new drugs for the patients.

This study could lead to a breakthrough in the medical industry on mental health that might lead to many people seeking professional attention and recovery.


Mental health in Kenya is facing many challenges as many youths and police officers are reported to commit suicide rather than finding help to their disorders.

More awareness on the symptoms of mental illness and stigmatization need to be addressed before the conditions spin out of control

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Brenda Gamonde
Brenda Gamonde
Brenda Gamonde is reporter with Business Today. Email: [email protected]
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