Importance: The renin-angiotensin system has been implicated in mood disorders. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) are among the most commonly used medications, yet their effects on mental health outcomes, particularly suicide, are poorly understood. This study examined the association between suicide and exposure to ACEIs and ARBs. Because of differences in their mode of action, it was speculated that ARBs would be associated with a higher risk of suicide than ACEIs.
Objective: To examine the association between suicide and exposure to ARBs compared with ACEIs.
Design, setting, and participants: This population-based nested case-control study of individuals aged 66 years and older used administrative claims databases in Ontario, Canada, from January 1, 1995, to December 31, 2015. Data analysis was performed from January to April 2019. Cases were individuals who died by suicide within 100 days of receiving an ACEI or ARB. The date of death served as the index date. For each case, 4 controls were identified and matched by age (within 1 year), sex, and presence of hypertension and diabetes. All individuals received an ACEI or ARB within 100 days before the index date.
Exposures: Use of an ACEI or ARB.
Main outcomes and measures: Conditional logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios for the association between suicide and exposure to ARBs compared with ACEIs.
Results: Nine hundred sixty-four cases were matched to 3856 controls. The median (interquartile range) age of cases and controls was 76 (70-82) years. Most cases (768 [79.7%]) and controls (3068 [79.6%]) were men. Among cases, 260 (26.0%) were exposed to ARBs, and 704 (18.4%) were exposed to ACEIs. Among controls, 741 (74.0%) were exposed to ARBs, and 3115 (81.6%) were exposed to ACEIs. Compared with ACEI exposure, ARB exposure was associated with higher risk of death by suicide (adjusted odds ratio, 1.63; 95% CI, 1.33-2.00). The findings were consistent in a sensitivity analysis excluding individuals with a history of self-harm (odds ratio, 1.60; 95% CI, 1.29-1.98).
Conclusions and relevance: The use of ARBs may be associated with an increased risk of suicide compared with ACEIs. Preferential use of ACEIs over ARBs should be considered whenever possible, particularly in patients with severe mental health illness.