July 24, 2014 — A study published in Diabetes Care has found an increased risk of type-2 diabetes from cholesterol-lowering statins like Lipitor (atorvastatin).

However, researchers cautioned, “Benefits of statins in reducing cardiovascular events clearly overwhelm the diabetes risk.”

The researchers looked at data on 115,709 Italians who started a statin in 2003 or 2004. The researchers kept track of how many patients developed diabetes until 2010. During the study, 11,154 patients started using an anti-diabetes medication or were hospitalized with a diagnosis of type-2 diabetes.

Researchers found that diabetes was more common in patients who strictly adhered to the dosing regimen compared to patients who took less than 25% of the pills they were prescribed. Essentially, higher doses translated into higher rates of diabetes:

  • Low adherence (26-50%): 12% increased risk of diabetes
  • Intermediate adherence (51-75%): 22% increased risk of diabetes
  • High adherence (75%+): 32% increased risk of diabetes.

The study adds to a growing body of evidence linking high doses of statins with higher rates of diabetes. Last month, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that patients on high-potency statins were 15% more likely to develop new-onset diabetes within two years, compared to patients on low-potency statins. Hundreds of lawsuits are now pending against Pfizer, the manufacturer of Lipitor, from people who allege that the drug-maker did not adequately warn about the risk.


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