Could Statins Raise Diabetes Risk?
Some popular brands associated with high blood sugar levels in study, but odds of problems are low
By Margaret Farley Steele
THURSDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- Certain statins -- the widely used cholesterol-lowering drugs -- may increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, a new study suggests.
The risk was greatest for patients taking atorvastatin (brand name Lipitor), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor), the study said.
Focusing on almost 500,000 Ontario residents, researchers in Canada found that the overall odds of developing diabetes were low in patients prescribed statins. Still, people taking Lipitor had a 22 percent higher risk of new-onset diabetes, Crestor users had an 18 percent increased risk and people taking Zocor had a 10 percent increased risk, relative to those taking pravastatin (Pravachol), which appears to have a favorable effect on diabetes.
Physicians should weigh the risks and benefits when prescribing these medications, the researchers said in the study, which was published online May 23 in the journal BMJ.
This does not, however, mean that patients should stop taking their statins, the experts said. The study also showed only an association between statin use and higher risk of diabetes; it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
"While this is an important study evaluating the relationship between statins and the risk of diabetes, the study has several flaws that make it difficult to generalize the results," said Dr. Dara Cohen, a professor of medicine in the department of endocrinology, diabetes and bone disease at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. "There was no data regarding weight, ethnicity and family history -- all important risk factors for the development of diabetes."
Cohen added that there was no information on the patients' cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and that higher-risk patients might automatically be prescribed stronger statins such as Lipitor, Crestor and Zocor.
Finnish doctors wrote in an accompanying editorial that this potential risk should not stop people from taking statins.
"The overall benefit of statins still clearly outweighs the potential risk of incident diabetes," researchers from the University of Turku said. Statins have been proven to reduce heart problems, they said, adding that the medications "play an important role in treatment."