Cholesterol-Lowering Statins May Double Risk Of Developing Diabetes

COLUMBUS, Ohio — When it comes to statins, could the cure be worse than the disease? A new study suggests that taking statins to lower cholesterol and blood pressure may more than double the risk of developing type-2 Diabetes.

Researchers with The Ohio State University accessed thousands of detailed health records to get a real-world perspective of the relationship between statin use and diabetes. The results of the four-year retrospective study indicate that the longer a statin is prescribed, the higher the risk for developing diabetes. Health records show that taking statins for more than two years triples the risk of developing type-2 Diabetes.

“The fact that increased duration of statin use was associated with an increased risk of diabetes–something we call a dose-dependent relationship–makes us think that this is likely a causal relationship,” says lead study author Victoria Zigmont, a graduate student in public health at the university, in a university release.

“That said, statins are very effective in preventing heart attacks and strokes,” she adds. “I would never recommend that people stop taking the statin they’ve been prescribed based on this study, but it should open up further discussions about diabetes prevention and patient and provider awareness of the issue.”

Participants in the study were privately insured men and women from the Midwest with an average age of 46. None of the 4,683 participants had diabetes nor were any taking statins at the beginning of the study. They were, however, candidates for statins because of heart disease risk.

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Over the course of the study period, which ran from 2011 until 2014, roughly 16 percent (755 patients) were prescribed statins. The study found that statin users were also 6.5 percent more likely to have a high HbA1c level, a measure of blood sugar and an indicator for diabetes.

Researchers say the findings, though limited to a mostly Caucasian population, indicate the need for doctors to closely monitor all patients who take statins. Doctors need to watch for metabolism changes and provide targeted medical advice on diet and exercise.

Although the results reveal an association between statins and type-2 Diabetes, researchers caution that the results do not reveal which specific statins and dosage amounts cause glucose metabolism shifts. They would like to see more studies delve into these specifics.

“In addition, researchers conducting large prospective cohort studies should be considering how statins impact human health overall,” concludes coauthor Steven Clinton, a professor of medicine with the university and member of Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. “They should consider both risks and benefits, not just the disease that is being treated by the specific drug.”

Study results are published in the journal Diabetes Metabolism Research and Reviews.

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