The UCSD Statin Study: a randomized controlled trial assessing the impact of statins on selected noncardiac outcomes

Control Clin Trials. 2004 Apr;25(2):178-202. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2003.08.014.


There has been persistent controversy regarding possible favorable or adverse effects of statins or of cholesterol reduction on cognition, mood and behavior (including aggressive or violent behavior), muscle function, and quality of life. The UCSD Statin Study seeks to ascertain the beneficial or adverse effects of statin cholesterol-lowering drugs on a set of noncardiac endpoints, including cognition, behavior, and serotonin biochemistry. The study will enroll 1000 subjects (minimum 20% female) of mixed ethnicity from San Diego. Subjects must be age 20 and older, postmenopausal if female, without known cardiovascular disease or diabetes, and with LDL-cholesterol between 115 and 190 mg/dl. Subjects will be randomized to a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with assignment 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 to placebo, simvastatin 20 mg, or pravastatin 40 mg (equipotent LDL-cholesterol-lowering doses for drug arms with simvastatin and pravastatin chosen to represent the extremes of the lipophilicity spectrum) for 6 months of treatment followed by 2 months postcessation follow-up. Primary outcomes are cognition (cognitive battery), irritability/aggression (behavior measure), and serotonin (gauged by whole blood serotonin), assessed as the difference between baseline and 6 months, judging combined statin groups vs. placebo. Secondary outcomes include mood (CES-D and Wakefield depression inventory), quality of life (SF-12V), sleep (Leeds sleep scale, modified), and secondary aggression measures (Conflict Tactics Scale; Overt Aggression Scale, Modified). Cardiovascular reactivity will be examined in a 10% subset. As additional secondary endpoints, primary and selected secondary outcomes will be assessed by statin assignment (lipophilic simvastatin vs. hydrophilic pravastatin). "Reversibility" of changes, if any, at 2 months postcessation will be determined. If effects (favorable or unfavorable) are identified, we will seek to ascertain whether there are baseline variables that predict who will be most susceptible to these favorable or adverse noncardiac effects (i.e., effect modification).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression / drug effects
  • California
  • Central Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Cognition / drug effects
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Research Design
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Universities


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors