June 12, 2014 — The British Medical Journal has published a study linking the use of cholesterol-lowering statins with an increase in the risk of new-onset type-2 diabetes.
Conclusions were based on a meta-analysis of eight population-based studies. These studies involved nearly 137,000 people in six Canadian provinces and two international databases from the United Kingdom and United States.
All of the patients were over 40 years old and started a statin, such as Lipitor (atorvastatin) or Crestor (rosuvastatin), after being hospitalized for a major cardiovascular event or procedure. Researchers looked at data between January 1, 1997 and March 31, 2011.
Researchers found that high-potency statins were 9% more likely to be associated with diabetes compared to low-potency statins. According to the authors:
“In the first two years of regular statin use, we observed a significant increase in the risk of new onset diabetes with higher potency statins compared with lower potency agents. … The risk increase seemed to be highest in the first four months of use.”
Evidence linking statins and type-2 diabetes should not dissuade people with heart disease from seeking treatment. There is ample evidence that drugs like Crestor and Lipitor help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke for people with pre-existing heart problems.
However, researchers pointed out that clinicians should carefully consider the starting dose of the medication, bearing in mind that studies of high-potency statins vs. low-potency statins have not shown a reduction in death or severe adverse events in stable patients with heart disease.