Statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs put patients at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The most recent research to show a connection is the Women’s Health Initiative, a very large study begun in the mid 1990s. It included more than 150,000 postmenopausal women without diabetes at the beginning of the study. About 10,000 of them developed the disease in the following decade, and statistical analysis shows that those taking a statin such as Crestor or Lipitor were 48 percent more likely to get a diabetes diagnosis.

Although many physicians seem surprised with this finding, it is not the first time statins have been linked to a higher risk of diabetes. Studies published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and the Journal of the American Medical Association also reported a higher risk of diabetes for people taking statins.

While statins are critical for people with a high risk of heart trouble, people who simply need to lower their cholesterol may need to be more cautious about using these powerful medications. With this new evidence doctors and patients should thoroughly discuss the benefits and risks of statin treatment.

[Archives of Internal Medicine, online Jan, 9, 2012]

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  1. Kendra M.

    My Dr. told me if I did not get my cholesterol down, I would be on a medication in 6 months. I am confused as to why. My cholesterol reading was 229 my triglycerides were 80 my LDL was 78 and my good cholesterol(HDL) at 135 yes you read it right 135. She said my Lipid panel is fair? My pharmacist is wondering why she would even consider putting me on a statin. I am not diabetic, I do have High Blood pressure which is under control. Any and all comments are welcome.
    We are as puzzled as your pharmacist. Your good HDL cholesterol is OFF THE CHARTS! Seriously, that number alone is amazingly excellent. We bet your doctor would like to have such a high HDL cholesterol. There are very few people on the planet with good HDL cholesterol levels so high. That may in part account for your slightly higher total cholesterol. And your bad LDL cholesterol is actually quite low. Your triglycerides are also well below the norm and something to be quite proud of.
    We encourage you to have another conversation with your doctor and ask her why in the world she thinks you need to be on a statin. Since you do not have a history of heart disease we don’t understand why your physician thinks a statin would be beneficial. Please ask her for data to support such a prescription.

  2. Bill K

    About 20 yrs ago, I began treatment for high Cholesterol, and began 20 mg of Pravachol. my cholesterol level was 215+/- then, both parents had died of heart disease, and I am male. That put me in the high risk class for cardiovascular disease.
    8 yrs ago, I was switched to Lipitor, a low dose 20mg I believe, to lower my cholesterol from 175 to get below 150. This was at the end of October 2004. At my physical in Mid Jan. I was diagnosed w/ type2 diabetes. My A1c level was 9.7. I had not been near prediabetic at any time before, triglycerides were normal to low, BP was in the low normal level 110/65.
    I believe Lipitor kicked diabetes into motion. My physician explained there was no science to prove this. Today, we know better.
    I had seen a supervisor, and a brother both type diabetics on pravachol, have their sugars go goovy after being switched to Lipitor. This was premise for Lipitor being the instigator of diabetes developing in myself.

  3. Dick M.

    I am a 74 yr male. diagnosed (July ’11) with hi cholesterol (220), put on 80mg Lipitor. Blood glucose = lo 90’s. BP controlled w/ atenolol 50 + water pill + Lisinopril 20. Moderate exercise.
    3 months later chlos = 120. BP ok @ 130/74. p=78. blood glucose= 160, moderate exercise.
    Reduced Lipitor to 40mg. Had arteries checked by sonogram= satisfactory.
    after 30 days = chlos= 126, BP = ok 120/68. Blood glucose = 138.
    Next 30 day= no changes in med’s.
    Dec. reduced Lipitor to 20 mg. Blood glucose = 120, BP too low felt sluggish 104/52. Stopped atenolol, continued Lisinopril + water pill.
    Jan. reduced Lipitor to 10 mg. Blood glucose = 110, BP 130/72, pulse increased to 80 – 90, resumed atenolol at ~10mg.
    Feb. Med’s stable @ Lipitor 10, Cholesterol 112. BP Lisenopril 20, water pill, atenolol 10, = 120/56, pulse 74. Moderate exercise.
    Sonogram of arteries = no change.
    All changes under Dr. care alto’ he objected—–we both learned that my particular body is a fine machine that tolerates small med changes!

  4. merhoff

    On simvastin following five vessel coronary bypass surgery in 2006. Developed marked ataxia, a complication that is rarely mentioned on the net, and never found in drug company list of complications. I stopped the simvastin and took Co-enzyme Q10, 200 mgm bid, with complete relief from ataxia in about ten days.
    H.R. Merhoff, M.D. (retired)
    Red Bluff, CA

  5. MF

    I am concerned about the comment about statins and diabetes. I was given a prescription for Crestor when I was diagnosed with diabetes 2 because my cholesterol was high too. I didn’t take it for a few months, nor did I take the Metformin prescribed for my diabetes, because I don’t like to take meds, and want to use natural substances and treatments for any problem where possible. A professional urged me to take the statin, though, even if it was every other night. So I’ve been taking Crestor for a couple of months, while using a number of supplements for the blood sugar. That, along with careful food choices, has kept my numbers in good range. Now I’m thinking of Metformin as a help I need, like insulin is needed for Diabetes 1. After reading about the statin/diabetes question, I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions or enlightenment would be appreciated.

  6. Patric F.

    Very interesting comments about Statins. However, you seem to always mention studies regarding women. How about the guys? Does the same thing hold true for us?
    People’s Pharmacy response: We suspect so, but we can only report on the studies that are published. The benefit/risk balance may be different for guys. More men might be at higher risk of heart disease.

  7. rg

    I am a type 2 diabetic and use Simvastatin to control cholesterol. Could the Simvastatin be working against my sugar control?
    People’s Pharmacy response: It could make control more difficult. The dilemma is that diabetes makes you more susceptible to heart disease, so the simvastatin may be needed.

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