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.