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!
“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.”
“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:
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.” Read Joe's Full Bio.
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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. https://doi.org/10.1111/bcp.13898
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