blood sugar testing by pricking finger, metformin (Glucophage), lower blood sugar, diabetes care

Q. My husband is really struggling with high blood sugar. I suspect some of his medications may be causing it to stay up.

We are on a fixed income and his diabetes drugs are terribly expensive. We are having to choose between food or medicine. Any information you can offer would be welcome.

A. Many medications can make it hard to control blood sugar. Although this has been known for decades, health professionals may not always consider drug-induced diabetes when prescribing.

Statins and Diabetes: A Painful Paradox

Virtually all people with elevated blood sugar or a diagnosis of diabetes are being prescribed (thanks to American Heart Association Guidelines) statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs. That means if a a doctor does not offer a medicine like atorvastatin, lovastatin, pitavastatin (Livalo), pravastatin, rosuvastatin (Crestor) or simvastatin, she could be dinged by her clinic or professional organization.

But here’s the rub: statins can actually trigger diabetes or make blood sugar control more challenging. Diabetes experts we have talked to downplay the risk. They are convinced that every person with diabetes must be on a statin even if it makes it harder to manage glucose levels. They just up the dose of diabetes medicine or add another medication to the mix.

We have always found that adding medicine to try and treat the side effects of a prior prescription somewhat counterproductive. That’s because each new medication adds complexity and a potential for additional complications. Here are a few case about statins and blood sugar:

This comes from Bob:

“I’m a numbers person – I pay attention. I noted a relatively sharp increase in blood glucose levels when I started taking simvastatin more than five years ago. I asked my doctor and he stated ‘the drug does more good than harm, keep taking it.’

“My morning FBG (fasting blood glucose) levels were on the rise (145ish). Accidentally I have forgotten to take my bedtime simvastatin for 4 to 5 nights. For the last 4 mornings, my glucose levels are all in the 120s; today 118. I haven’t seen these numbers in awhile now.

“My conclusion:

“It is pretty obvious that elevated glucose is harmful. I plan to resume tonight taking the simvastatin for 7 nights followed by a morning FBG reading. If my suspicions prove out, I will at the very least cut in half my simvastatin or possibly lose it all together.”

J. Hill wrote:

“I took simvastatin for 10 years. I was diagnosed as prediabetic after just 1 year and developed Type 2 diabetes after 4. As my cholesterol levels came down, my A1c went up, yet my doctor continued to INCREASE my simvastatin dosage, up to 80 mg.

“At that point, I was completely unable to control my blood sugars and had to start insulin injections. I developed severe leg pains, had difficulty concentrating, felt old and weak, and started stumbling when I walked.

“With the help and support of my chiropractor, I stopped taking simvastatin 18 months ago. As expected, my cholesterol levels went up (264). I now take herbal supplements, including Cholest-Off, vitamin D, fish oil, and turmeric, and my cholesterol is steadily coming down. I am no longer exhausted and in pain, and the best part is that my blood sugar is now under excellent control!

“One surprising development-my doctor is insistent that I try a different statin and has even enlisted the clinic’s pharmacist in calling and trying to persuade me–4 times just this year! I would rather die of a heart attack than take statins and live with blindness, amputations, and kidney dialysis.”

Cindy says:

“I have been taking statins for years, first Lipitor and now Crestor. I developed diabetes, the only person in my family that has ever had it. I also have very little muscle strength. Of course my doctor insists that the statins have nothing to do with either one.”

Diuretics and Diabetes

Diuretics (“water pills” are among the most commonly prescribed drugs in America, but you might not even realize you are taking such a medication. That is because they are often added to other drugs to enhance blood pressure control. Common diuretics include: chlorthalidone (Hygroton, Thalitone ), chlorothiazide (Diuril), furosemide (Lasix) and indapamide (Lozol).

HCT or HCTZ: Hydrochlorothiazide (Esidrix, HydroDIURIL, Oretic)

This diuretic is found in so many combos it is mind boggling. Here is just a partial list:

Accuretic, Amturnide, Atacand HCT, Avalide, Benicar HCT, Benzepril/HCTZ, Bisoprol/HCTZ, Capozide, Diovan HCT, Dyazide, Exforge HCT, Hyzaar, Lopressor HCT, Lotensin HCT, Maxzide, Micardis HCT, Tekturna HCT, Triamterene/HCTZ, Vaseretic, Zestoretic and Ziac. If you see HCT or HCTZ in the name of your blood pressure medicine there is a very good chance it contains hydrochlorothiazide.

Although diuretics are perceived as super safe, elevations in blood glucose are not uncommon. By the way, diuretics can also increase cholesterol. So imagine this scenario: Someone has a mild case of hypertension and is put on a diuretic containing HCT. Blood sugar and cholesterol start to go up. Out comes a script for a statin (because anyone with elevated glucose must be on a statin). Now the double whammy of a diuretic and a statin could really increase the risk for type 2 diabetes.

Triple Whammy: Just Add Prednisone

If you really want to push someone over the edge, add a corticosteroid like prednisone to the mix. We wonder how many people are taking a statin plus a diuretic plus a drug like prednisone. If such a person does not end up with an elevated blood sugar level it would be amazing.

Shana shared her story of pure prednisone:

“I was first prescribed prednisone in 1985 at the age of 37 when I was diagnosed with severe asthma. My journey with this drug continued with very long and high dosages. I would be on for three weeks, off for two weeks and back on for how ever many weeks it took. This regime continued for at least 15 years when the asthma became controlled. At the 10 year mark, I was diagnosed with diabetes 2. Every time I take prednisone my blood sugar rises to a very high level.”

Diabetes Treatment Is Affordable!

We are emailing you our Guide to Managing Diabetes for a list of drugs (there are many more than those listed in this article) that can boost blood sugar. It also discusses a number of medicines used to treat type 2 diabetes (including generic metformin) and suggests nondrug approaches to help with blood glucose control.

Anyone else can download this guide for $2 from the website:

It is certainly stressful to have to choose between the pharmacy and the grocery store. We suggest you explain the situation to the doctor and see if the medical team can find some ways to help you economize without jeopardizing your husband’s health.

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  1. wanda

    Yes these drugs do cause this we know first hand. But change around till you find one that doesn’t affect blood sugar. We had to do this with my husband. He ended up on Crestor and all is just fine now. Normal A1c EACH TIME IT IS CHECKED.

  2. Holly

    I was prescribed LOWEST DOSE of Rx BACLOFEN (1Mg?) for left sided Spasms. After only 2 pills @1 a day, I was urinating super excessively & became extraordinarily weak. I was forced to hire a Caregiver to take me to my Primary Care Dr. who had prescribed the RX. Dr. insisted RX would not cause, but Labs were done. My Blood Sugar Numbers had increased significantly. (from mid range-normal) DR. then diagnosed me a Pre-Diabetic & SLIGHT KIDNEY FAILURE.

    (I then reviewed MAYO CLINIC, WEB MD & KAISER PHARMACY INFORMATION about RX BACLOFEN POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS. Sure enough each indicated possible rare Adverse Effect of High Blood Sugar Levels.) I thought it likely that RX Baclofen was the cause of my symptoms & Labs as it was the only new variable & I had Never previouly been dignosed as Pre-Diabetic nor ANY INDICATIONS OF KIDNEY PROBLEMS, nor had high numbers in either. I suggested to DR. that I go off RX BACLOFEN.

    DR. remained adament BACLOFEN WAS NOT THE CAUSE. I was off for 2 days. Then another Dr. advice to cut in half. Even after 3 days of 1/2 pill once a day (.5Mg a pill?)
    I was still so extraordinarily weak that I needed at home care. Thus I went completely off RX Baclofen. It took me a month or so to regain some strength. After 3 months my BLOOD SUGAR & KIDNEY numbers were again in the NORMAL RANGE.

    I have always been very sensitive to various RXs & I always told that to every Dr. So again am reminded that I know my body best. I have been very ill served by many Drs. & their many Prescriptions, often recklessly prescribed, especially since I had told them of my frequent Adverse Reactions. BEWARE ANY NEW SYMPTOMS & CHANGE IN LABS WHEN TAKING A NEW RX.

  3. Susan

    I am undergoing chemo for stage 3 colon cancer. Part of my chemo cocktail includes steroids. This is supposed to make the drugs work better & help with nausea. The unfortunate side effect is extremely high blood sugar, I have type 2 diabetes and my sugars are very hard to keep down as it is. My blood sugar goes up to almost 500 the 24 hours after the chemo, which I have every 2 weeks. I am on fast acting & long acting injections along with metformin & glipizide. I also take Turmeric to help with just about everything! In the past,
    I have tried all of the affordable herbals & vitamins suggested to help with blood sugar. NONE of them have given me any improvements. any suggestions? I have 5 more rounds of chemo to go.

  4. Janice

    I know that the statins raise blood sugar. I was given them twice and both times, my sugar got out of control. Most doctors will give them to you and when your sugar goes up, they give you meds for diabetes. I don’t know that my sugar is too high. I think they recently lowered the numbers on sugar levels that are acceptable so they can make more diabetics and force more pills on people. It happened to me by several doctors who all claimed that I am diabetic with a fasting blood sugar of 98 to 112. None of them cared at all that I felt fine with out their meds but their meds made me sick. Their answer was to take the meds.

  5. Dori

    Everybody jumps on the med bandwagon, when a change in diet might help a lot of the issues. When, on my holistic doc’s orders, I stopped eating grains (except occasional rice and oatmeal), sugars including sugar substitutes, and cow’s dairy, a couple of amazing things happened. My pain disappeared, I lost 90 pounds and most importantly, my blood pressure and glucose dropped into a normal range and I was able to stop ALL prescriptions with the exception of one for natural thyroid. My A1c is now 5.7 and by BP is 133/68 WITHOUT meds. My cholesterol is perfect.

    I don’t think most people realize the terrible health effects the processed/manufactured foods and inflammatory foods (dairy, grains, sugar) have on your body.

    Just saying…. BTW, I’m 79 and I made this change in diet in 2011.

  6. Penny

    Many years ago I had a doctor whose favorite maladies were gout and cortisone deficiency plus he thought that all his patients should take tetracycline as a preventative. So I was taking daily prednisone, tetracycline and allopurinol. Later another doctor added steroid injections for back pain to the list and I developed hypertension and diabetes. My internist challenged me to get off the prednisone which I was able to do and I gradually stopped the tetracycline and allopurinol. I refuse to take any cholesterol type med because they all cause muscle pain. I still have diabetes but it’s under control and still have high cholesterol. I have not been well served by the medical profession.

  7. Patricia

    J. Hill wrote about high blood glucose levels and medications and noted that she had leg pain. I am diabetic and have Terrible leg pain.. especially on my shins, it’s just awful! Does anyone know anything about this?

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