Statins May Be Linked to Diabetes Risk
But Researchers Say Benefits of Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs Outweigh Risks
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 17, 2010 -- The popular class of cholesterol-lowering drugs called
statins may slightly raise the risk of type 2 diabetes, but experts say the
benefits of these potentially lifesaving drugs far outweigh the risks.
A new review of 13 studies on statins and their side effects with a total of
more than 91,140 participants found use of statins increased the risk of type 2
diabetes by 9%. This risk was found primarily among older people; there was no
additional diabetes risk among statin users 60 and under.
Researchers stress that this study does not prove that statins directly
raise the risk of diabetes, but it raises the possibility of either a direct or
indirect link between statins and diabetes that merits further investigation.
They say the absolute risk of developing diabetes as a side effect of statin
use is still small, especially compared to the much larger beneficial effect
that statins have on reducing the risk of heart attack and other complications
of heart disease.
To put the results into context, researchers say treatment of 255 people
with statins for four years would be associated with one extra case of type 2
diabetes. But statin treatment in the same 255 individuals for four years would
prevent five major heart-related events, including heart attack or death due to
Researcher Naveed Sattar of the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and
colleagues say studies on statin therapy have often produced conflicting
results in regard to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
To clarify these conflicting results, researchers compared the results of 13
published and unpublished studies on statins and diabetes conducted between
1994 and 2009. Each study involved at least 1,000 participants and followed
them for more than one year.
Of the 91,140 total participants in the studies, 2,226 of those on statins
and 2,052 of those who didn't take the drugs developed type 2 diabetes over an
average of four years.
Overall, stain use was associated with a 9% increased risk for diabetes
across the 13 studies, but further analysis showed this risk was primarily
among older adults.
Researchers write that the results of their review should not change the
recommendation for use of statins among those at moderate or high risk of heart
disease, but the potential for diabetes risk should be taken into account if
statin therapy is considered for people at low risk for heart disease.
In an editorial that accompanies the study, published in The Lancet,
Christopher P. Cannon of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical
School in Boston writes that this risk does merit monitoring but should
not change the current use of statins in cholesterol-lowering therapy.
"The benefit in preventing total vascular events to the risk of diabetes is
a ratio of about 9:1 in favour of the cardiovascular benefit -- the benefit
seems to greatly outweigh the risk," writes Cannon. "Whilst a new risk of
statins has been identified, the risk seems small and far outweighed by the
benefits of this life-saving class of drugs."