Some cholesterol-lowering medications may up the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, new research suggests.
A study published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that people taking high potency statins are up to 22% more likely to become diabetic than those on weaker statin drugs .
Statins are a group of widely used drugs that protect people at high risk of developing coronary heart disease by lowering levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol in the blood.
They are used in diabetes care due to the fact that diabetic patients face a greater likelihood of suffering heart attack or stroke, but previous studies have suggested an association with new onset type 2 diabetes.
For this latest study, a team of researchers from hospitals in Toronto examined medical records of 1.5 million people over the age of 66 and compared the incidence of diabetes between people taking different statins .
The results showed the overall risk of developing type 2 diabetes was low, but this risk was greater among patients taking certain statins .
Those treated with atorvastati, rosuvastatin or simvastatin were found to have a 22%, 18% and 10% increased likelihood of new onset diabetes, respectively, compared with patients treated with the less potent pravastatin.
In contrast, the use of fluvastatin and lovastatin was associated with a 5% and 1% decreased diabetes risk, respectively.
The researchers concluded: “Clinicians should considers this risk when they are contemplating statin treatment for individual patients. Preferential use of pravastati, and potentially fluvastatin or lovastatin…might be warranted.”
Commenting on the study, experts from the University of Turku in Finland said the overall benefit of statins “still clearly outweighs the potential risk of incident diabetes”.

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