The People's Perspective on Medicine

Do Statins Cause Diabetes? Many MDs Wish It Weren’t So!

Most people know that statins can cause muscle pain and weakness. Not that many realize that there is now enough data to suggest statins cause diabetes.
Blood glucose monitor, diabetes,

Search the medical literature for statins and diabetes and you might be surprised at what you will find. Many health professionals would prefer that this side effect were never discovered. There is tremendous enthusiasm for statin-type cholesterol-lowering drugs such as atorvastatin, lovastatin, pravastatin, rosuvastatin and simvastatin. Anything that rains on the parade gets questioned. For example, an article in Current Opinion in Lipidology (June, 2015) concluded: “The clinical impact of statin-associated diabetes is likely unimportant. The cardiovascular risk reduction benefit from statin far outweighs the potential for adverse effects in all but the very lowest risk individuals.” Some doctors still do not believe statins cause diabetes.

The Latest Research: Do Statins Cause Diabetes or Not?

A study published in Diabetes Metabolism Research and Reviews (May 24, 2019) analyzed data from more than 7,000 patients. They compared statin takers with non-statin takers. The researchers looked at elevations in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) which is a measurement of sugar metabolism over time. They also tracked new-onset-diabetes (NOD).

Statin users were more than twice as likely to develop NOD as nonusers. The authors note that:

“Those taking statins for 2 years or longer (AHR=3.33, p<0.001) were at the greatest risk of developing NOD; no differences were observed by statin class or intensity of dose.”

In our opinion, statins cause diabetes. The longer the drugs are taken, the the greater the risk!

Not the First Time!

Researchers are very cautious about how they describe the relationship between statins and diabetes. A study published in Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management (May 3, 2018) reviewed data on 68,000 patients (21,551 statin patients and 46,442 nonusers).

The conclusions:

“Our study indicated an association between statin use and an increased risk of new-onset diabetes mellitus.”

A study published in The Consultant Pharmacist (vol. 29(5), 2014) tiptoed around this issue:

“Review of current, available clinical data suggest a possible association between statin use and incident diabetes in patients with underlying diabetes risk factors.”

A meta-analysis of studies published in Cardiorenal Medicine (Vol. 8(2), 2018) reported that:

“statin therapy is associated with NODM [new-onset diabetes mellitus], such that there is a small but significant risk of NODM among patients receiving statin for CVD [cardiovascular disease] prevention therapy.”

Then there was this research published in the (British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, March 5, 2019) .

“Individuals using statins may be at higher risk for hyperglycaemia, insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes.”

That study involved 9,535 people who did not have diabetes before starting statins. You can read more about this research and other studies at this link:

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Diabetes is NOT a Trivial Side Effect:

Virtually every medical report we have read that suggests that statins can cause diabetes comes with caveat. The risk is “small.” Very few researchers suggest that anyone should stop a statin because of diabetes. Even the FDA is on record saying:

“…the risk of developing diabetes as a result of a statin is small. ‘The benefits of statins in reducing heart attacks and strokes should generally outweigh this small increased risk.”

People’s Pharmacy Perspective:

The weight of the evidence is reaching a tipping point. We think that saying statins are “associated with diabetes” or “statins are linked to diabetes” are misleading. We think it is past time for clinicians to come right out and say “statins cause diabetes.”

Diabetes can cause heart disease, strokes, hypertension, neuropathy (nerve damage), eye problems, digestive tract issues, foot complications, kidney disease and a whole lot more. We do not think the refrain “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is appropriate when people develop diabetes as a result of taking statins (although it is a wonderful song).

We absolutely recognize that some people should take statins. Those with diagnosed heart disease appear to benefit the most. But people who do not have heart disease and are taking statins for prevention may need to have a heart-to-heart with a physician about the diabetes risk.

Here is an article we wrote on this topic that you might find relevant:

Statins and Diabetes | What Happens When Blood Sugar Rises?

What do you think? Please share your perspective about statins and diabetes in the comment section.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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  • Zigmont, V. A., et al, "Statin users have an elevated risk of dysglycemia and new-onset-diabetes," Diabetes Metabolism Research and Reviews, May 24, 2019, doi: 10.1002/dmrr.3189
  • Robinson JG, "Statins and diabetes risk: How real is it and what are the mechanisms?" Current Opinion in Lipidology, June, 2015. DOI: 10.1097/MOL.0000000000000172
  • Li H et al, "Statins use and risk of new-onset diabetes in hypertensive patients: a population-based retrospective cohort study in Yinzhou district, Ningbo city, People's Republic of China." Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, May 3, 2018. DOI: 10.2147/TCRM.S158850
  • Park ZH et al, "Statin-associated incident diabetes: A literature review." The Consultant Pharmacist, Vol. 29 (5), 2014. DOI: 10.4140/TCP.n.2014.317
  • Kamran H et al, "Statins and new-onset diabetes in cardiovascular and kidney disease cohorts: A meta-analysis." Cardiorenal Medicine, Vol. 8 (2), 2018. DOI: 10.1159/000485196
  • Ahmadizar F et al, "Associations of statin use with glycaemic traits and incident type 2 diabetes." British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, March 5, 2019.
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I was taking Atorvastatin 10 mg until about 6 months ago. The muscle aches and discomfort in my legs was very bothersome; even sitting in a chair was uncomfortable. I just went cold turkey, no I have not told my primary.

My A1C has been 5.9 – 6.1, pre-diabetes, yes I am overweight but have been most of my life, I am 60 now. I order my own blood work (online) so I will keep an eye on my numbers. Been on B/P meds and Synthroid for over 30 years, it’s hereditary in my family. Seriously believe my weight problems are due to the meds that I take, can’t lose weight unless I consume less than 1000 calories a day.

Joe: “It is hard to predict what will happen going forward. Please discuss the latest research with your doctor and get his opinion.”

What if my doctor is a she?

We assume you will speak with your doctor or primary care provider whether that person uses he, she or they as the preferred pronoun.

As usual, many new drugs hit the beach running as long as after a few trials no one died. It is only years later that significant faults become known and by then Big Pharma has established its propaganda in the minds of the medical community. I have heard of doctors recommending Statins be started during teenage years to prevent heart problems that may occur 30-50 years later. This ensures a steady diet of younger patients to keep the medical mafia afloat in the decades ahead.

I think statins are one of the worst drugs to come along . There was once a doctor here in Dallas who believed ( and served on a panel to promote it ) that statins should be added to the drinking water in this country. My husband took statins, which resulted in severe muscle pain, memory loss from which he has never recovered, and peripheral neuropathy. His doctor will not prescribe statins anymore after he took them himself. Dreadful !

I’m glad I stopping taking my statin less than two years after I started it. If the prescribing doctor was aware that a statin might cause diabetes, I’m sure she felt that I was heading that way anyhow. Fortunately, I changed my ways, lost weight, and got my blood sugar under control. Unfortunately, that statin caused permanent damage to my muscles and nerves. Had I developed diabetes and suffered a cardiovascular event that statins are known NOT to prevent, I would have become suicidal. All this from a drug that is supposed to keep me healthy and prolong my life? I think it has failed me miserably. Doctors, however, don’t live my life and feel my anguish over lost health and constant pain.

We do not understand this discussion: do statins cause diabetes? It is after the diagnosis of diabetes that the statin is prescribed. So, we discover that it amplified insulin resistance and causes other problems. I have been diabetic under insulin since 1985. I have stopped statins since 1997. My Dr’s were frantic. I am the diabetic, the healthiest in the world at the age of 67 years and 34 years under insulin and with a very bad control of glicemia. All diabetics in the world could have the same luck.

I get debilitating muscle pain and a fuzzy brain when taking statins. So does my husband. These drugs are poison in my opinion. I have high cholesterol but no heart disease. Every doctor I’ve seen tries to push these drugs on me. I don’t get it. Do they get a kickback or something?

I have been reading your articles concerning Statins causing diabetes, and I wish to stop the use of Statins. What do you suggest that I use instead?

PLEASE discuss this with your physician! Some people need to stay on statins. Bring to the attention of your PCP your concerns about statins and in particular the recent research on diabetes. There may be other ways to reduce your risk for heart disease. On the other hand, if you already have heart disease, statins may be your best bet.

I’ve been on 20 mg of simvastatin for many years. However, I don’t feel any of the side effects I’ve read about, viz., muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness. The doctor checks my kidney and liver functions every 4 months at our visit, and all are normal. Also, I do not feel unusually tired for a 74 year old, certainly never not hungry, and feel generally pretty good. Being diabetic, I do feel the normal coldness in the evenings in my legs and feet, but the pulse in lower extremities appears quite good. I can’t see a reason not to stay on Simvastatin, unless my current A1C of 7.2 would drop by eliminating it. The doctor has not suggested eliminating it. Am I going against the grain?

After my stroke I was put on Crestor first, then Liptor. Have had IDDM for thirty years. Noticed the blood sugar had gotten higher, as had the A1C. The neurologist wanted me to wait and see if it went down. By that time I was having muscle cramps and weakness, read some studies, decided to cut the statins out, as I wasn’t going to live that much longer anyhow. (75 at the time.) Near doc said she couldn’t help me then. I left her care. Still kicking,now age 77. I think a small companion dog off Craig’s List has more to do with the recovery than any specialist.

I think doctors are not to be trusted about this. I developed diabetes after taking statins (atorvastatin) and am just now learning about the connection between the two. I have been told it’s my weight, it’s my diet, it’s hereditary, but NEVER has anyone suggested statins might be involved in causing diabetes. It has long been my belief that doctors should take every darn medication they expect their patients to take. They don’t listen when I say I’m tired and weaker than I should be, or the digestive issues I have might be connected to atorvastatin. It’s my age, they say. I don’t believe anything they tell me anymore.

I have taken statin drugs for many, many years. I am female, not overweight but was prescribed statins because my father died at the age of 48 of a heart attack. I have read so many articles about all the different side affects from taking statins and have decided to get off them. I slowly stopped taking them about 2 months ago.

I will see my doctor on the 8th and will see how high my cholesterol is at that time. I know it will be over 200, but that is fine with me. I’ve also read how our brains and bodies need cholesterol. Doctors have these knee-jerk reactions over cholesterol and prescribe statins! Now, look at all the testing and the other things statins cause. I will take my chances.

Is it weird that when I goggle NOD human diabetes, all I get are mouse studies? It seems this terminology is misused when applied to humans, at least those without a specific gene defect.

I was on statins, and it was a terrible experience. I want to be active and healthy till the very end, if possible. Statins made it so I could barely get up one flight of stairs. I asked my doctor if I could try to lower my cholesterol through lifestyle. He was skeptical but gave me three months off of the statins to get it down.

I stopped eating all meats and cut back on dairy as much as I reasonably could. I added plants into my diet and eat oatmeal almost every morning for breakfast (overnight oats are my favorite). My cholesterol dropped, and now I’m permanently off of statins. I can run up and down stairs again. I also lost some weight, which wasn’t my goal but a nice side effect. My experience, and the science, say that plant-based eating is what humans are designed to do. Statins would have put me into an early grave I’m sure. If you’re experiencing issues with statins do some research on plant-based eating.

What about red yeast rice–a “natural” statin? Same risk?

After taking statins for 10 years to lower high normal cholesterol, my blood tests started coming back with pre-diabetic glucose levels. I also, incidentally, had a blockage in my heart resolved by insertion of a stent at the same time period and developed neuropathy in my legs. (Did not prevent a heart attack.) After stopping the statin, my cholesterol levels rebounded at levels higher than ever, and I believe that this is a side effect also not being recognized. After altering body chemistry, it appears that getting off the medication may be similar to getting off antihistamines – significant rebound and more dangerous levels of cholesterol. Have you seen this reported anywhere?

I no longer take prescription statins but take red yeast rice instead along with fish oil and COQ10. My numbers are better now than when taking prescription statins. Is there data regarding the risk of diabetes when taking red yeast rice?

My total cholesterol numbers are 153, and I’m considering reducing or eliminating the red yeast rice. What are your suggestions for fish oil and COQ10? I’ve also read that statins are probably not necessary after about 75 years old.

I have been taking pravastatin for close to 20 years and my fasting blood sugar and A1c has steadily risen. I just went 7.0 on A1c and am now a Type 2. Asked the doctor and he said some of the reports are based on small populations etc…Would stopping the statin reverse this effect?

It is hard to predict what will happen going forward. Please discuss the latest research with your doctor and get his opinion.

Years ago at Family Practice Medical conferences I wold bring up my concern that PPIs would cause a B12 deficiency. It seemed an obvious result to me but I was literally ridiculed from the podium by the experts who clung to the overt goodness of their new acid reducers. Now it’s a known possible side effect.

Over and over in the field of medicine I see a refusal to have an open mind and tendency to practice medicine by dogma rather than having that open mind. One area in which this is very true is with patients complaining of side effects to a Medicine that are not normally seen. People are so diverse we should always wonder if what the patient is saying is TRUE, and not just dismiss the patient’s complaint. This closed-mindedness leads the patient to suffer.

I had been on statins for years since my early 40’s. As I got older, the pre-diabetic symptoms started first, then the PCP said I had diabetes. (Age:59 to now 63) I never got on the diabetes wagon though.

I started my own research and learned that statins could up your diabetes numbers. I have familial cardiovascular disease and had a 3CABG at age 58 due to one sharp pain in my back. I advised my cardiologist that I was reducing my Crestor from 10 mg down to 5 mg due to extreme leg aches that wake me during my sleep. I also take supplements like Niacin and Tumeric-curcumin. Nothing else I can do except watching what I eat and not being sedentary.

Thank you so much for keeping up the fight against statins. I was appalled when my husband’s doctor had him start taking them, and I kept forwarding the information you provided to my husband encouraging him to stop. And, thankfully, he did!

Seeing this makes me even happier that he stopped because his mother ended up having diabetes later in her life. She did not exercise or do anything to maintain a healthy weight, so finally she was down to giving herself injections for Type 2 diabetes, which was preventable!!!

My husband and I are much more careful with our diet, and I’m happy to say that he’s even lost weight because of that and daily exercise. Thank you so much for keeping us informed and healthy!

My view on pharmaceuticals in American culture is that we are carefree about food we consume, lack of exercise and restraint on most things we know can adversely effect our good health because we are told that drugs will solve many problems. Just spend one evening watching TV, and you learn how wonderful life can be if you take any one several different drugs. All the while, with images and music that show great health and happiness, a lowered voice tells us about the wide range of side effects that are not very pleasant.

As for statin drugs, I am constantly told to take them. Since 2003, when I took them for just 6 months and developed elbow pain, I stopped and have never taken them again. I am 66 years old, work 2 jobs, play baseball, hike and am rarely ill. I do take several supplements but that is all.

If I am told to take a medication I want to know why, the source of the problem,and alternatives other than pharmaceuticals. It is important to be informed before any substance is taken long term. Get the facts, take responsibility, and live a healthy lifestyle.

Yet again, another nasty side effect of statins and a good reason not to take them.

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