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Statin Effects on Aggression: Results from the UCSD Statin Study, a Randomized Control Trial.

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Low/ered cholesterol is linked to aggression in some study designs. Cases/series have reported reproducible aggression increases on statins, but statins also bear mechanisms that could reduce aggression. Usual statin effects on aggression have not been characterized.


1016 adults (692 men, 324 postmenopausal women) underwent double-blind sex-stratified randomization to placebo, simvastatin 20mg, or pravastatin 40mg (6 months). The Overt-Aggression-Scale-Modified-Aggression-Subscale (OASMa) assessed behavioral aggression. A significant sex-statin interaction was deemed to dictate sex-stratified analysis. Exploratory analyses assessed the influence of baseline-aggression, testosterone-change (men), sleep and age.


The sex-statin interaction was significant (P=0.008). In men, statins tended to decrease aggression, significantly so on pravastatin: difference=-1.0(SE=0.49)P=0.038. Three marked outliers (OASMa-change ≥40 points) offset otherwise strong significance-vs-placebo: statins:-1.3(SE=0.38)P=0.0007; simvastatin:-1.4(SE=0.43)P=0.0011; pravastatin:-1.2(SE=0.45)P=0.0083. Age≤40 predicted greater aggression-decline on statins: difference=-1.4(SE=0.64)P=0.026. Aggression-protection was emphasized in those with low baseline aggression: age<40-and-low-baseline-aggression (N=40) statin-difference-vs-placebo=-2.4(SE=0.71)P=0.0016. Statins (especially simvastatin) lowered testosterone, and increased sleep problems. Testosterone-drop on statins predicted aggression-decline: β=0.64(SE=0.30)P=0.034, particularly on simvastatin: β=1.29(SE=0.49)P=0.009. Sleep-worsening on statins significantly predicted aggression-increase: β=2.2(SE=0.55)P<0.001, particularly on simvastatin (potentially explaining two of the outliers): β=3.3(SE=0.83)P<0.001. Among (postmenopausal) women, a borderline aggression-increase on statins became significant with exclusion of one younger, surgically-menopausal woman (N=310) β=0.70(SE=0.34)P=0.039. The increase was significant, without exclusions, for women of more typical postmenopausal age (≥45): (N=304) β=0.68(SE=0.34)P=0.048 - retaining significance with modified age-cutoffs (≥50 or ≥55). Significance was observed separately for simvastatin. The aggression-increase in women on statins was stronger in those with low baseline aggression (N=175) β=0.84(SE=0.30)P=0.006. No statin effect on whole blood serotonin was observed; and serotonin-change did not predict aggression-change.


Statin effects on aggression differed by sex and age: Statins generally decreased aggression in men; and generally increased aggression in women. Both findings were selectively prominent in participants with low baseline aggression - bearing lower change-variance, rendering an effect more readily evident.

Trial registration NCT00330980.

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