bottles of crestor lipitor and simvastatin cholesterol-lowering drugs

The guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology are crystal clear. People with diabetes (both type-1 and type-2) should all be on a statin-type cholesterol-lowering medicine! There are no exceptions to this recommendation. Any physician who strays from the path of prescribing a statin to his or her diabetic patients will presumably be practicing bad medicine.

What makes this guideline so intriguing is the growing body of evidence suggesting that statins can actually cause diabetes in a substantial number of people. So, the very drug that induces elevated blood sugars is required to treat the cardiovascular risks associated with the development of drug-induced type-2 diabetes. Does this seem as odd to you as it does to us?

Statins Linked to Diabetes:

Do you doubt that statins induce diabetes? Here is just the latest research on this connection (BMJ, online, May 29, 2014). Researchers analyzed data on nearly 140,000 patients in Canada, the UK and the U.S. All the individuals had been hospitalized either because of a heart attack, stent placement or some other serious cardiovascular procedure. Some were given low-potency statins while others were placed on high-potency statins such as rosuvastatin (Crestor) at a dose of 10 mg or greater, atorvastatin (Lipitor) at a dose of 20 mg or higher or simvastatin (Zocor) at a dose of 40 mg or higher.

None of the people in the analysis had been diagnosed or treated for diabetes prior to being placed on a statin. Within two years of starting on the medicine 3,629 patients were diagnosed with type-2 diabetes. Those given high-potency statins were 15% more likely to end up with blood sugar elevations compared to patients prescribed lower-potency statins or lower doses. The lead author, Colin Dormuth, was quoted by Reuters:

“Physicians need to weigh the small increase in benefit against the increase in diabetes risk.”

Other Studies of Statins and the Risk of Diabetes:

This is not the first study linking statins to diabetes. The first meta-analysis involved six studies and nearly 58,000 patients enrolled in randomized, placebo-controlled trials (Diabetes Care, October, 2009). Another meta-analysis of 13 clinical trials with over 91,000 patients also confirmed this connection (Lancet, Feb. 27, 2010).

The trouble with such clinical trials is that they do not necessarily represent real-world conditions. They were not designed to detect diabetes. That is why this study is so interesting. By comparing high-potency statins to lower-potency statins the researchers were better able to determine a true statin effect. Another researcher, David Preiss, who has also studied the relationship between statins and diabetes, was quoted in Reuters about this connection:

“Commonly used statins, such as simvastatin, atorvastatin and rosuvastatin, taken at a lower dose probably puts one at 10 percent higher risk of developing diabetes,” Preiss said. “Taking these same statins at high doses probably pushes this up to about 20 percent.”

How Do You Interpret These Findings?

What are we to make of this research? Statin enthusiasts maintain that anyone with diabetes must take a statin, even if the drug caused the condition in the first place. There is no doubt that people with diabetes are at increased risk for cardiovascular complications. But if a statin actually causes diabetes or makes it harder to control blood sugar, it seems somewhat counterintuitive to routinely recommend such drugs to every such patient. At the very least, lower doses or lower-potency statins should be considered. This is a conversation people on statins should have with their prescribers.

We are not the only ones who find the official insistence on statins for people with diabetes questionable. A recent essay asks, “Are diabetes guidelines truly evidence based?” The authors suggest that the evidence to support statin therapy in diabetes is inconclusive (Bouchonville et al, Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, online March 7, 2017).

Statins and Exercise:

There is one other reason to be concerned about insisting everyone with diabetes be on a statin regardless of blood sugar elevation or other drug side effects. EXERCISE! Ask any health professional about the role of exercise in the management of diabetes and you will be told that it is crucial. Not only is exercise essential for good blood sugar control, it can help with weight loss and cardiovascular function.

But here’s the kicker! A brand new study in JAMA Internal Medicine (online, June 9, 2014) concludes that statin use is associated with reduced physical activity. The investigators suggest that if muscle pain and weakness is triggered by statin-type drugs then this adverse reaction could contribute to a decline in exercise or other physical activities. Needless to say, that wouild be a highly undesirable outcome.

Here are some comments from visitors to this website regarding this controversy:

“I was given a prescription for Crestor 20 mg. after my triple by-pass in 2011.  I began to have severe muscle spasms and general weakness, confusion, and lethargy.  I felt so bad, I finally stopped it altogether and my Dr. tried several different statins in different strengths.

“I complained over and over to both my family Dr. and the heart Dr. to no avail.  Both insisted that I take the statins, even though I felt terrible.  I suffer from fibromyalgia and the statins seem to exacerbate the condition.  My feet were so sore on the bottoms, walking was very painful.

“Finally the heart Dr. suggested I take 5 mg. and if that was too much to cut the pill in two and take 1/2 as many days as I could tolerate it.  I began to feel somewhat better on this dose.  I now take 1/2 of a 5 mg. tablet of Crestor about every other day.  Since beginning the statins, I have elevated sugar in my blood.

“I complained to my Dr. about this and asked him to change to a statin that wouldn’t cause my blood sugar to go up.  He said, ‘they all do that, and if you get diabetes, we can do something about that’.  I hit the roof and told him I never had a problem before the statins and I would watch my intake of carbs very closely until my next check up.  If my blood sugar is elevated, I would stop taking statins.

“I also developed arthritis in my hands which are becoming deformed with the swollen knuckles and joints and they ache terribly.  My total cholesterol was 201 my last check up.  The LDL is still too high.  The heart Dr. was going to put me on an additional statin to bring it down and I refused.  Will have my next check up in July.” M.B.C.

“When I was put on Zocor (simvastatin), I noticed a lot of leg cramps. Close to a year later, I was told I was diabetic. Do you think taking this medication could have triggered type 2 diabetes?” Rosemary

“‘Figures don’t lie but liars can figure!’  I had been on simvastatin for many years as it was considered a miracle drug.  About the same time I started taking a statin I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.  I have no way of knowing if there is a connection but more and more evidence is leaning that way.  About six months ago I stopped taking simvastatin and have noticed my hips and knees are feeling better.

“My latest lab results from a month ago show an increase in LDL to a bit over Standard Range.  HDL remains well within Standard Range.  I had also experienced general sexual problems but I attributed those to paroxetine.

“I stopped taking the paroxetine about two months ago and the sexual problems have completely disappeared!  I don’t know if the statin contributed to this but I feel better overall after eliminating both drugs.  Funny that a person can actually feel better going off drugs that are supposed to make you feel better!  I suspect the only people who feel better when we take many drugs are the drug companies.” G.J.

“My husband took Lipitor for about 5 years and for most of that time, was in a great deal of pain when walking.  He tried dozens of different types of shoes, orthotics and treatments to no avail.  It was like walking with stress fractures in his heels.  Then he started  having trouble in his elbow.  He went thru cortisone shots for a couple of years and then had to stop as he had reached his limit.  Dr. was ready to do surgery but as a last resort, recommended physical therapy.

“During the PT he began talking to colleagues about his pains and several of them had experiences similar and all were on LIPITOR.  At one PT session, the therapist said his muscles were so tight she couldn’t do anything (said the sheath was ready to rupture) and asked if he was on any statins.  When he said yes, she advised he visit his dr and get off the Liptor.  He did and within days was 100’s of times better.  After 30 days, he was put on another statin and the pain returned.  Now he does not take any statins and warns others of their danger.

“He was also diagnosed with type 2 diabetes during this time and has had cataracts removed also.  Since he has stopped taking any statins, he is basically pain free and can wear any type of shoe he wants and plays raquetball & pickle ball twice a week which he wouldn’t have been able to do with his foot pain,   He can even ride his bike pain free which he couldn’t do before.

“It’s amazing to me that these drug that are supposed to help you, can cause so much damage and drs. don’t tell you about it.  His dr. said the muscle pain was a minor side affect.  BS!  It was life altering, expensive and totally avoidable.” Susan

We recognize that many people are able to take statins without side effects. That’s great! Those who have had a heart attack or angioplasty can benefit from statins and will reduce their risk of experiencing another cardiovascular event.

There is still a great deal of controversy about whether people who are not at risk for heart disease will benefit. And those people who develop type-2 diabetes or who have trouble controlling blood sugar levels need to discuss this situation with a heatlh professional.

It is actually surprising how many medications can either raise blood sugar levels or actually cause diabetes. To learn more about which drugs can cause this complication, check out our Guide to Managing Diabetes.

Share your own statin story below. We like to hear from people who have not experienced problems as well as those who have. Others may benefit from your story.

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  1. Barbara

    All your stories mimic mine exactly. Statins, incredible pains. Kicked them to the curb.Now a few years later I’m a Type II diabetic. Metformin. After a couple years all the statin pains returned. Now it’s arthritis going to need knee AND hip replacements……..maybe all the pain and problems would have occurred anyhow as a natural part of aging. Who can know? Taking NOTHING now. Will consider the knee and hip replacements when I can’t stand the pain. For now..clean diet helps alot. I ignore what the blood work is saying because I never had any symptoms of anything until I started with blood work and
    Enough is enough.

  2. karen

    I don’t even have High Cholesterol and the doctor put me on Lipator because I have type 2 diabetes. Does that make any sense?

  3. Il

    I’m type 1 diabetic and just got a statin for high cholesterol, even tho I take 3 injections a day after starting with rosuvastatin I need an extra injection just to get my glycemia under 15, my shoulders ache I can barley move, and my chol wasn’t that high.
    Statins are not miracle drugs they’re double bladed knifes, there are people that need statins but prescribing them like aspirin to everybody is idiotic and the fact that after you start taking them you can not stop is even more.

  4. Jane G.

    I have been on Atorvastatin for 7 months. I have type 1 Diabetes. Before I started taking this drug my consultant told me I was the best controlled diabetic in his clinic. My Hba1cs were ALWAYS within normal range. My blood sugars rarely went into double figures.

    Since taking this statin I have developed lethargy, pain all over my body and my blood sugars are in double figures all day long. I feel my body is totally resistant to insulin. I have just tested my blood sugar and it is 22.

    I have never had a high reading like this…Ever.

    I am now stopping this statin as I feel if I don’t my risk of dying from complications of high blood sugars far outweigh having a heart attack. For me this drug is dangerous.

  5. Bettie
    United States

    I have been on atorvastatin for over 20 years and have had few side effects. When I was started on 10mg I had some leg cramps, but magnesium helped. I am now on 40mg and no leg cramps. I have familial hyperlipidemia and my cholesterol and ldl are in check. I am one of the fortunate ones.

  6. Gail

    I was put on statins because of familial Hyperlipidemia several years ago and experienced muscle pain in my legs which got progressively worse, I complained lots of times to 3 different Drs who kept changing the statins, eventually the pain was so bad I was unable to walk very far without having to rest. I then asked to see a consultant and was referred to an orthopaedic specialist who referred me to a vascular consultant and after tests was found to have serious peripheral vascular disease, so much for statins [and doctors!]

  7. Gabbie

    Great forum…my story begins with that I was subjected to the “Standard of Care” in the hospital when I had a small stroke a few years ago. In my confused and weakened state, it was found I was also diabetic and automatically put on simavastatin despite my normal cholesterol levels and excellent carotid and heart studies. At the time, I was not told what a statin was or what it was supposed to do, but in just a few days, my cholesterol dropped to a very low level– which I found out later could have caused a serious bleeding type stroke. My doctor was having trouble getting my sugar level down and kept increasing the metformin dosage. At one point I was even given insulin. I was eventually taken off the statin, and my sugar levels finally started to drop. But, almost every doctor I have seen since has tried to get me back on one or another statin because it is supposed to be prescribed for “all diabetics”. Doctors seem to be taught to treat to the “numbers”, not the individual patient…one size fits all. Well, that’s NOT going to happen to me again!

  8. YVONNE L.
    United Kingdom

    I have been on statin drugs for a few years now was put on as a precaution as my mother and my grandmother both had angina, but since going on statins I have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetis muscle aches, knee and ankle pain and very bad swelling of the ankles and I take 3 metformin per day. I get regular bouts of diarrhea and have now been diagnosed with diverticulitis. what next?

  9. cpmt

    I REALLY DO NOT UNDERSTAND our doctors or …. drug companies or organizations WHY ON EARTH are we prescribed medicines that do more harm than good only because our blood test have…. x or z high when we are elders????? it is natural at old age, while to cure ‘a patch’ we are given poisonous horrendous side effects, that some cause dementia, cancer or … I prefer to die of natural causes and not poisoned by medicines and doctors who love to give medicines left and right. .

  10. cpmt

    I will like to know if there were statins 40 years ago and if any of them have the same side effects that the ones we have today? I will really like to know this. Because if this medicine exist, why are we being prescribed these -dangerous side effects- drugs. I don’t know which is worse, prevent something of vs. getting diabetes with serious consequences. If they use to have other medications 20, 30, 40 years ago with no side effects (or mild) why can we get them now? I was told to take lipitor, to protect my kidneys? don’t we have other medications -with no ‘hard’ side effects that we can take??? thank you.

  11. mb

    speaking of dementia drugs-read the side effects of the exelon patch-(memory loss) exacerbation of dementia-the drugs out there for dementia do NOT cure it-supposedly they put off the worsening of dementia-old folks should increase their b12 (unto 2000 mcg daily) helps the brain.

  12. GB

    If statins cause Diabetes, is their effect permanent or if one stops taking statins does blood glucose return to a normal range?

  13. Barbara

    It has gotten to the point we can’t trust what our doctors tell us. I went to a new internist this week. Upon seeing me for the first time (I was carrying normal lab work from another doctor) and without even asking me if I had osteoporosis (I don’t have it) she told me I needed to go on osteoporosis drugs and also on proton pump inhibitors. I do not need either drug. But she wanted me to take them.
    I expect next she would have insisted I take statins. Before she could get to statins I told her I do not take drugs for which I have no need. She said she could see she was going to have trouble with me.
    Then she wanted me to take a pneumonia vaccine injection because I am over 65. I checked on line today and saw the vaccines have not been studied for people over 65 and vaccines are not often very effective for older people, and the vaccine is not without side effects.
    Phooey on doctors who lust after drugs for everyone who walks in the door.

  14. Joan

    I took Niacin (1000mg per day) for 2 years. By the time I stopped taking it in August 2011, my glucose level had gone into the “pre-diabetic” range and I was having irregular heartbeats. I told the cardiologist I saw that I thought the rise in glucose level was connected to my taking Niacin and he said that was possible (the irregular heartbeats were also connected to Niacin). My glucose level returned to normal after I discontinued the Niacin. I also decided against taking statin drugs based on my research on the internet at that time.

  15. Marilyn

    My elderly mother was on a cholesterol lowering drug (don’t remember which one) prior to her diagnosis of type II diabetes.
    This was 8 years ago and unfortunately we lost her, however all the symptoms in other comments here were noted but I did not know then about the association of cholesterol lowering drugs and all these other issues. She developed brain fog, dementia, TMI’s, heart problems, absolutely no energy and uncontrolled blood sugars. We watched her like a hawk, staying with her 24 hrs a day, monitoring her very closely with 4 times a day readings, preparing her meals through a Nutritionist and having a RN available when we needed her.
    Wish I knew then what I know now.

  16. SL

    I started taking Crestor over 6 mo. ago and just had my glucose checked and it went from 99 to 107. It has never been over 99 and I have it checked every time I have my cholesterol checked. Made me wonder why it was higher. Then I remembered that Crestor could increase your glucose. I have always taken cholesterol meds, simvastatin was the last one before Crestor. I have “familiar” cholesterol, always been high since in my 20’s (now 65)and have always been on meds (could never get it under 200), but my HDL and triglycerides were always good and my ratio was good. So, I have decided to stop all statins and go to Niacin and Lecithin. I will let you know what the numbers are when I have my next cholesterol test.

  17. O.G.

    Patients need to be their own advocates (another way of saying “ornery”) when their doctors tell them they “need” a statin, and yell, like me, “Ain’t no WAY!” Fortunately, his nurse chimes in with my–repeated and adamant–refrain, and the poor doctor has gotten used to it. Now, he very hesitantly says “Now, I don’t suppose…” before giving up. And yes, I’m a Type 1/LADA diabetic, but have never taken a statin. I take insulin and Metfomin. And that’s all, folks.

  18. Louise

    After having been on simvastatin for a year and a half I experienced severe fatigue and muscle aches. The family doctor and cardiologist wanted me to continue with a statin, but instead I went on a low fat, very little poultry, no beef, etc. way of eating, and with the mostly vegetable and fruit diet (no processed foods) all of my blood work is now within the normal range. I would encourage everyone to follow this style of eating and you can eliminate many medications and their side effects.

  19. KN

    My mother has been a Type 2 diabetic for years. He doctor put her on 2 different statins because he triglycerides were high. Her blood sugar continued to climb and be uncontrollable. She became insulin dependent. I had suggested to her that her statins might be contributing to her lack of blood sugar control. Finally, on her own, she discontinued one of her statins and she saw her blood sugar readings decline dramatically. Her doctor was thrilled with the results, even though he didn’t know the reason. After a while, she discontinued her other statin and saw even greater results. She then confessed to her doctor about what she had done, and he said nothing. She is now off her insulin and her blood sugar readings are more controlled.

  20. TS

    I believe Simvastatin caused Type II Diabetes in my elderly mother, and I believe it exacerbated her dementia, as well. Her doctor had her on Atenolol and Simvastatin. I thought she seemed like she was in a fog. Finally, I took her to a noted cardiologist and he said, GET HER OFF THOSE DRUGS! She doesn’t need them. This cardiologist, in Seattle, assured me that there was a connection between statins & cholesterol.
    I wish more doctors and medical professionals would pay attention to the research.
    I took my mom off Simvastatin and Atenolol and a lot of anti-dementia drugs. She is about 70% improved. We worked hard to lower her blood sugars through diet and mild exercise and it worked. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t that terrible, either.

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