Most Statin Users Won't Have Major Side Effects
However, large review found 9 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes
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Overall, the researchers found a 9 percent increased risk of type 2 diabetes in people taking statins. Naci said it's possible that statins may impair the secretion of insulin, although this study didn't examine potential mechanisms for why statins might increase diabetes risk.
"The slight increase in diabetes risk is greatly outweighed by the cardiovascular benefits of statins," he said.
Statins were not linked to any increase in the risk of cancer, according to the review. "There is conclusive evidence that statins do not raise cancer risk," Naci said.
The use of statins, particularly atorvastatin, was linked to an increase in liver enzyme irregularities. Naci said these blood test changes don't cause any symptoms, and are reversible when the drug is stopped. "If monitored closely, there is no cause for concern, and no specific precautions are warranted based on our study," he said. "Switching to a statin associated with fewer elevations may be appropriate."
The researchers also found that the higher the dose, the more likely people were to stop participating in a trial due to side effects.
"Side effects do tend to go up with higher doses," cardiologist Steinbaum said. "You want to use as little medication as possible, and combine the use of statins with lifestyle management. There's no medication that's a quick fix and a cure, but it's worth taking statins if you can manage the side effects."
She added that while simvastatin and pravastatin may have the most favorable side effect profiles, "they tend to be the least potent statins. The statins with the greatest effects tend to have the most side effects," Steinbaum said.
"Not all statins are the same," noted study author Naci. "Our study provides evidence that the side effect profiles of individual statins vary, which should be considered when making prescribing decisions."