Q. I am having a statin and blood glucose problem. I am NOT a diabetic! My readings have all been great up until recently. I do have numerous family members who are Type 2 diabetics however.
I was recently diagnosed with blockage in a coronary artery and even though my cholesterol levels were fine according to my cardiologist, he decided to put me on statins and other meds to see if we could avoid more invasive intervention. I started on simvistatin (Zocor) and had muscle and joint pain so he switched me to Crestor.
I am still having the muscle and joint pain but he wants me to remain on the statin anyway. I am uncomfortable with that idea but decided to go ahead. The symptoms have faded a bit.
But, my last blood test at the VA clinic showed a fasting reading of 108, which I believe is considered borderline Type 2 diabetes. This made me nervous, to say the least. Two of my brothers have Type 2 diabetes and I don’t want to join them. Yesterday I decided to take a fasting reading with my brother’s monitor. It showed 243! Unsettling is a bit mild to describe the feeling after seeing that reading, as I know something about the problems and risk of diabetes with so many Type 2’s in the family. I decided to use the other brother’s monitor and got the identical 243 reading again!
This is a frightening to me. I do NOT want to take the statins for ‘preventative’ reasons and end up becoming diabetic! I am a bit torn now about the decision. Do I keep taking the statins and risk diabetes or get off of them. The cardiologist is pretty set on me taking them. I am pretty set on NOT becoming a diabetic.

A. You are definitely caught on the horns of a dilemma. The FDA has just issued a new alert about an increased risk of diabetes and memory loss associated with statin-type drugs. In the agency’s own words: “A small increased risk of raised blood sugar levels and the development of Type 2 diabetes have been reported with the use of statins.”
Although the FDA has been late to the game on this and has downplayed its significance, we have been hearing from readers of our newspaper column and visitors to this website about some serious blood sugar problems linked to statins. Almost a decade ago we received this question:

“Recently, our physician prescribed Lipitor for my husband and myself. We both have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. We both take Glyburide and my husband takes Avandia as well.
Since we started on Lipitor, our blood sugar has been rising rapidly. My husband asked the doctor about changing to Tricor, but he was told it would not help him much and he should stay with Lipitor. It seems that Lipitor is affecting our blood sugar. Is this possible?”

+++++++++++++++++++
“Q. I was put on Lipitor to control cholesterol and found it shot my blood sugar through the roof. My doctor suggested switching to Crestor. Would this drug also affect blood sugar?”
A. You are not the first person to note that some cholesterol-lowering medicines might raise blood sugar levels. Another reader reported that after taking Crestor, his type 2 diabetes numbers also “went through the roof.” In addition, he reported: “my hands, feet and arms tingled so much I could hardly stand it.”
+++++++++++++++++++
To read more about this very serious problem, check out this article from our archive.
The FDA has issued a warning about blood sugar elevations with the following drugs

The statins affected include:

Altoprev (lovastatin extended-release)
Crestor (rosuvastatin)
Lescol (fluvastatin)
Lipitor (atorvastatin)
Livalo (pitavastatin)
Mevacor (lovastatin)
Pravachol (pravastatin)
Zocor (simvastatin).

Products containing statins in combination with other drugs include:

Advicor (lovastatin/niacin extended-release)
Simcor (simvastatin/niacin extended-release)
Vytorin (simvastatin/ezetimibe).

Deciding what to do when someone has heart disease makes this a very challenging situation. There are other strategies to reduce inflammation and reduce cholesterol besides statin-type drugs. You may want to consult another cardiologist to see if there are options that might not cause either muscle pain or elevated blood sugar levels. We agree that you should not have to trade a lowered risk for a heart attack for diabetes, which would increase your risk for heart attacks and strokes along with several other serious health problems. We cannot make a recommendation since that would be practicing medicine without a license. We do encourage you to discuss this with different doctors who can give you some acceptable options.
In our book, Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy you will learn about a variety of strategies to reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol. You will also find out about ways to reduce the risk of developing diabetes and to control blood sugar once it starts to climb. We hope these chapters will aid you in your conversation with your cardiologist and other physicians.

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  1. Will P.
    Reply

    Hi,
    I was diagnosed with a blocked coronary artery about 8 months ago. Hitherto I was fit and active (not overweight) and not suffering from any other illness. As part of a protection plan I was put on simvastatin beta blockers and aspirin. I quickly stopped the beta blockers and shortly after the statin due to muscle cramps. The cardiologist and doctor were not in agreement with this.
    I changed my lifestyle and although I was not overweight I stopped eating any fats, oils and products containing saturated fats: I also continued with my vegetarian habits. I lost about 20 Lbs and settled at about 155 lbs. After visiting my GP for a check-up I returned to statin (atorvastatin) at his insistence. Although I have had little trouble with cramps I have been asked to return following a blood check as my blood sugars are unnaturally high. I am concerned that this may be due to the statins. I certainly don’t wish to swap my hitherto healthy lifestyle and moderate cholesterol levels for diabetes.
    I will probably leave off the statins and continue to monitor my cholesterol by diet. I am disappointed that the risks have not been pointed out to me nor the benefits of diet in the control of cholesterol. There are some good books on this subject by American author “Essleton” & “Cornish”.

  2. JHR
    Reply

    I was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease several years ago. I have elevated blood pressure and with lisinopril and indapamide, it still likes to hover around the 150s over 80s. I began passing out (probably due to the Menieres) but my internist decided to have my heart checked. It was fine but in the process discovered that my cholesterol was too high (213) and prescribed Crestor along with very low salt diet (which helps the Menieres) and exercise.
    In 6 weeks my cholesterol dropped to 137 and the hdl and ldl were in the normal range. However, my bp stayed the same. So, they upped my lisinopril. Now the bp is in the 120s/high 60s. I did noticed that my blood sugar on that test was just a little higher than the norm. Was that a result of the Crestor? Also, I am more fatigued than usual in the afternoon.
    I am 72 and quite active but between the dizziness and the fatigue I have had to drop a few things.Could that be a result of the Crestor?
    Thank you for any information that you can give to me.
    JHR

  3. richgan
    Reply

    My blood sugar went up too. I am now borderline diabetic. Cholesterol plateaued to border line. Muscles get fatigued and sore with minimal exercises.

  4. LP
    Reply

    I have been taking Rousvstatin for many years. I am a type 2 diabetic also and am taking pills for that. My blood sugar climbs up , sometimes to 210 and then goes down to about 135 or so. Is it the Rousvastin or what that is making my blood sugar rise that high? It does not happen all the time, but when it does it CONCERNS me a lot

  5. Frank
    Reply

    Without statins my cholesterol is around 220. A 10mg lipitor tablet drives it down
    to 126 which is too low in my opinion. I break them in half and my readings rise to
    about 152 which still might be too low though my muscle pain has also lessened. I
    think half a tablet every other day might be better, for me anyway.

  6. EJ
    Reply

    I had a 65% blockage in right carotid artery in 2006 and was started on vytorrin 10/20. in 2008 I had another study and it showed NO blockage in either carotid artery. I had acid reflux so bad in 2008 they did a heart catherization with no blockages there. 6 months later my kidney function fell to 54 GFR! I then was ordered to have a kidney angiogram which showed right kidney 70% blocked left kidney no blockage. GFR fell to 37.
    They then put me on vytorrin 10/40, he preferred 10/80 but I refused because of fibromyalgia pain. My Kidney function has been stable for last 2 years GFR 40 to 48 back to 40 or 44. They check it every 4 months I now have been taking for 1 yr 10/20 vytorrin due to pain and all of a sudden triglycerides went to 300, then 550, now 620 so he put me on Lovaza 4grams a day plus vytorrin 10/20.
    My Father died at age 58 with congestive heart failure, my Mom is still living at age 90 with no stoke, heart attack but has diabetes well controlled with one pill. I also now take generic ambien and 1mg generic xanax for severe anxiety due to job loss, worrying over paying medical bills, losing my cobra insurance in June. They say now I have plaque in carotid arteries but no blockages. I am worried about taking all of this medicine but I can’t sleep at night the generic ambien has helped a lot but I am worried about the new warnings. I just turned 63 years old any advice would be appreciated.

  7. HJL
    Reply

    Hi,
    You never stated precisely how your blockage was diagnosed or whether you have
    chest pain. You also never mentioned your exact dose. If your cholesterol is good, then too much statin may drive it too low. Many think statins are good not because they lower cholesterol, but because they perhaps lower inflammation. A minimal dose may be all that is required.
    Alternatively, an Atkins diet will lower your diabetes risk markedly.
    Follow the Graedons and explore a physician who will listen and is tuned in better.

  8. Ermestine
    Reply

    How do I write to or email the FDA to tell them they are robbing good people of their memory, bladders, energy, and forcing them to live with pain? When will the FDA pull this drug off the market? And now the diabetes, and from what I am reading, they are given for PREVENTION OF HEART ATTACK. How do I know what to do? Stop them, or keep him on them and pray that he wont get diabetes.
    Thank you
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: The FDA wants to hear from people who have had bad reactions to drugs and encourages them to report at:
    http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/HowToReport/ucm053074.htm

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