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AbstractCalcium channel blockers (CCBs) differ in their ability to penetrate into the brain. Pharmacoepidemiological studies suggest that CCBs as a class may have beneficial effects on the risks and outcomes of some psychiatric and neurological disorders. It is plausible but unknown whether this effect relates to their brain penetrance. To address this, we used the TriNetX electronic health records network to identify people prescribed a brain-penetrant CCB (BP-CCB), or those given amlodipine, a CCB with low brain penetrability. We created cohorts of patients who, prior to first CCB exposure, either had to have, or could not have had, a recorded ICD-10 diagnosis in any of the following categories: psychotic disorder; affective disorder (including bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder); anxiety disorder; substance use disorder; sleep disorder; delirium; dementia, or movement disorder. Cohort pairs were propensity score matched for age, sex, race, blood pressure, body mass index, and a range of other variables. The outcomes were the incidence of these disorders measured over a two-year exposure period. Matched cohort sizes ranged from 17,896 to 49,987. In people with no prior history of psychiatric or neurodegenerative disorder, there was a significantly lower incidence of most disorders with BP-CCBs compared to amlodipine, with risk ratios ranging from 0.64 to 0.88 and an overall risk ratio of 0.88, i.e. a risk reduction of 12%. In people who did have a prior psychiatric or neurodegenerative diagnosis, differences were much smaller, but again showed lower risks for several disorders with BP-CCBs compared to amlodipine. The differences were somewhat more marked in women and in people less than 60 years old. Results were similar when comparing BP-CCBs with verapamil and diltiazem. We also compared BP-CCBs with angiotensin receptor blockers, and found an overall risk ratio of 0.94 in favour of BP-CCBs, but with differential effects across disorders including a higher risk of psychotic disorder and dementia, but a lower risk for anxiety and sleep disorders. In some analyses, there was evidence of residual confounding even after the extensive matching, in that negative control outcomes showed a reduced incidence with BP-CCBs relative to the comparator cohort. In summary, CCBs that readily penetrate the brain are associated with a lower incidence of neuropsychiatric disorders, especially first diagnoses, compared to CCBs which do not. This may reflect their blockade of neuronal voltage-gated calcium channels. The findings encourage repurposing trials using existing BP-CCBs, and suggest that novel BP-CCBs with enhanced and more selective central actions might have greater therapeutic potential for psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders.

Original publication




Journal article


Molecular Psychiatry


Springer Science and Business Media LLC

Publication Date





3904 - 3912