Cholesterol Drugs (Statins) Could Cause Diabetes in Some

Cholesterol-lowering miracle drugs statins may have one pretty serious side-effect: it might be increasing some people’s chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.

A study published Monday found a modest risk of diabetes development among older women using a variety of statins. It is indeed a strange link, but specialists say that if you need the drugs to avoid high risk of heart attack, stick with them.

Dr. Steven Nissen, cardiology chairman at the Cleveland Clinic wasn’t involved in the new research, but said this:

“What I fear here is that people who need and will benefit from statins will be scared off of using the drugs because of reports like this, […] We don’t want these drugs in the water supply, but we want the right people treated. When they are, this effect is not a significant limitation.”

Statins are widely prescribed, and for good reason. They dramatically lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, and studies have shown that they can-and-do save lives of those suffering from heart disease. The question that arises is whether or not to prescribe statins to those that don’t currently experience cardiovascular disease, but are merely at-risk.

Statins do have their share of baggage already. Though widely successful, they have been known to cause muscle pain that very rarely breaks down muscle to such an extreme point that it causes kidney failure or death. But can they raise blood sugar levels enough to inflict diabetes on someone? That’s debateable.

The study: a huge government initiative tracked the health of postmenopausal women. They pulled records of roughly 153,000 diabetes-free women, 7% of which were taking statins at the time. This was the 1990s.

2005. Roughly 10% of the same statin users developed diabetes, compared with 6.4% of women who weren’t on the drugs at the start of the study.

This is only an observational study, which leads researchers to potential links and risks, but does not prove them. The only problem is, this isn’t the only one linking statins to diabetes. A 2008 study on Crestor found a similar link. A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association last June also found connections between diabetes and statins.

Despite this, diabetes specialist Dr. Judith Fradkin says that the benefits of statins are greater than the potential risk, which is still hypothetical.

“The danger here is alarming people and having them go off a medication that’s of proven benefit,” she says.

Adding to the problem, many people on cholesterol-lowering drugs treat the pill like a miracle drug, and generally use prescription as an excuse to eat whatever they like, which may contribute to the development of diabetes.

Do you take statins? If so, are you worried about this risk?