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.

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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Citations
  • 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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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 replace the Statin drugs.

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 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.

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