Statins more than double the risk of type 2 diabetes, US scientists reveal

Jack Woodfield
Wed, 26 Jun 2019
Statins more than double the risk of type 2 diabetes, US scientists reveal
Statin medication taken to lower cholesterol and blood pressure more than doubles the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, researchers at the Ohio State University (OSU) have said.

This US study marks the latest in a long list of research papers which have reported on this association. Earlier this year, a Netherlands study reported a 38% increased type 2 diabetes risk associated with statins.

The cholesterol-lowering drugs may help to reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack, and earlier this year statin experts called for increased prescription of the drugs to over-75s.

However, the drugs are associated with short-term side effects such as headache, tiredness and muscle pains, and also longer-term side effects such as an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

In this new study, US researchers collected data from more than 4,600 men and women who did not have diabetes and were deemed suitable candidates for statins.

A total of 755 people (16%) were given the medication over the course of the study, which ran between 2011 and 2014.

Taking statins for any length of time more than doubled the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, compared to those who did not take a statin. Those who took the drugs were 6.5% more likely to have higher HbA1c levels.

"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," said Victoria Zigmont, who led the study as a graduate student in public health at OSU.

"That said, statins are very effective in preventing heart attacks and strokes. 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."

Despite this, co-author Steven Clinton, a professor of medicine and member of OSU's Comprehensive Cancer Center, said: "Researchers conducting large prospective cohort studies should be considering how statins impact human health overall. They should consider both risks and benefits, not just the disease that is being treated by the specific drug."

The findings have been published in the Diabetes Metabolism Research and Reviews journal.
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