The People's Perspective on Medicine

Do Statins Increase the Risk for Diabetes or Not?

There has been tremendous resistance to the idea that statins increase the risk of diabetes. Doctors are having a hard time dealing with this complication.

The guidelines are crystal clear. According to the American Heart Association, everyone with type 2 diabetes should be taking moderate-intensity statins.  As far as we can tell, there are no exceptions to these rules. What may not be mentioned is the possibility that statins themselves may cause type-2 diabetes. That creates an interesting conflict. If statins can trigger diabetes or make it worse, should people keep taking their statin? This reader has been put in a double bind by his doctor.

Doctor Contradicts Idea that Statins Increase the Risk for Diabetes:

Q. I have been taking a statin to control cholesterol for nearly 20 years. Over this time, my fasting blood sugar and HbA1c have risen steadily.

My A1c just hit 7.0 so I am now officially a type 2 diabetic. When I asked the doctor about the connection between statins and diabetes, he said these reports are based on small populations and are not credible. Is that correct?

Science: Statins Increase the Risk for Diabetes!

A. Actually, your physician has not kept up with the medical literature. One of the trials pointing to a link was called JUPITER. In it, 17,802 older individuals volunteered to take rosuvastatin or placebo (New England Journal of Medicine, Nov. 20, 2008). There was a 26 percent higher chance of diabetes among those taking rosuvastatin.

90,000 Patients:

A meta-analysis of 13 clinical trials involving over 90,000 patients confirmed that statins increase the risk of diabetes (Lancet, Feb. 27, 2010)  The authors downplayed its importance, though:

“Statin therapy is associated with a slightly increased risk of development of diabetes, but the risk is low both in absolute terms and when compared with the reduction in coronary events.”

From 2000 thru 2013:

Another review of the medical literature between 2000 and 2013 acknowledged the link between statins and diabetes (The Consultant Pharmacist, Vol. 29, # 5, 2014).  The authors concluded:

“Review of current, available clinical data suggest a possible association between statin use and incident diabetes in patients with underlying diabetes risk factors. Although study data may be insufficient to change the current practice paradigm, clinicians should vigilantly monitor for incident diabetes in patients on statins. Patients with a low risk of CV disease and high risk of diabetes should reconsider statin use and focus on lifestyle management.”

Risk Going Up:

A comprehensive analysis of this question in the journal Postgraduate Medicine (May, 2017) put some numbers around the risk: 

“Several meta-analyses of randomized, controlled trials with statins and population-based studies of subjects taking statins have shown different incidence of NODM [new onset diabetes mellitus] ranging from 28% in the JUPITER study to 43% in the UK clinical practice cohort.”

Higher Still:

A more recent review published in Cardiorenal Medicine (April, 2018)  puts the risk at 61%. The authors point out that health professionals originally thought statins might lower the risk of diabetes. That has now changed:

“The recent literature, however, has suggested a relationship between statins and hyperglycemia to the extent of causing new-onset diabetes, thereby questioning the medication’s safety. The mechanism is not yet fully understood, but effects of hyperglycemia and rising HbA1c with statin use in both those with and those without diabetes have been recorded.”

“The results of this meta-analysis show that individuals on statins have an increased risk of developing NODM [new onset diabetes mellitus] compared to individuals who did not receive statins, which is in agreement with findings from a previous meta-analysis.”

Statins Increase the Risk for Diabetes Two Fold:

Finally, data published in Diabetes Metabolism Research and Reviews (May 24, 2019) reported that statin takers were more than twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to people not taking statins.  This study involved over 7,000 patients.

So What if Statins Increase the Risk for Diabetes

Most of the analyses we have cited acknowledge 1) that statins can trigger type 2 diabetes in some proportion of patients and then conclude 2) don’t worry be happy. Researchers are quick to write that the benefits of statins far outweigh the risks of diabetes.

Readers Respond:

Geetha describes her transition to type 2 diabetes:

“I had no problems with blood sugar at all until I started taking rosuvastatin. At first this statin seemed to cause body aches and pains. I also had stomach discomfort. I stopped taking rosuvastatin and felt much better. But my doctor said because of my borderline cholesterol and high triglycerides, I had to take statins.

“Now, after a year of taking statins, my cholesterol levels are completely normal but I have diabetes. My blood glucose is 216. I have body aches and extreme fatigue along with leg cramps, thirst and frequent trips to the bathroom at night, all of which make me unable to sleep well at night. During the day I tire easily and suffer from extreme fatigue after the mildest of activities.”

Betty Ann adds this:

“I developed diabetes after taking atorvastatin. I 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.”

So, Statins Increase the Risk for Diabetes. What Now?

I think the doctor who rejected the idea of a statin-diabetes connection has not been keeping up with the research. Other health professionals are not happy with this result either. Read more at this link:

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

Share your own story in the comment section. Some people will have to take statins despite the increased risk of diabetes. That said, people should be warned about this potential adverse reaction.

Rate this article
star-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-emptystar-fullstar-empty
4.4- 87 ratings
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.” .
Managing Diabetes
$2.00

Download 8 pages on the pros and cons of the various medicines used to lower blood sugar and a wealth of details on non-drug approaches such as diet, supplements and special foods.

Managing Diabetes
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

Showing 9 comments
Comments
Add your comment

Having worked in the pharmaceutical industry during the rise in statin sales, I became aware of how over-marketed these products were. I have to wonder how much those particular drug-makers are contributing to the professional societies that are now down-playing the side-effects or the incidence of diabetes.

I find that doctors in general will not entertain the idea that prescribed medications can cause life-altering side effects. Each person must decide for themselves whether putting up with the misery from the drug or the resulting possible complications is worth it. Quality of life matters and we are all responsible for making life style changes that can reduce our risks. Pills are not the only answer to our good health.

Yes, it is clear that crestor which has a 19-hour half-life, may not be good after all. I took Lipitor for 7 years then crestor until july 2019. my chol. is not all that high, and my parents lived into their 80’s. Plus, you may also get foot pain, which I did but don’t have now. I think I may start taking vascepa as it studies look very good.

Very interesting piece. But , what if you are already Type 2 diabetic? What effect on my blood glucose and A1C does this statin have on existing Diabetes?

I was recently told that I should get off Metformin or get on statins, since my blood sugar is constantly good. I hope trying to get off Metformin works since I won’t take statins (muscle aches, brain fog, fatigue, and wheezing). It is certainly good to have choices concerning health care, not so thrilled with ultimatums.

My doctors have also been unwilling to accept the relationship with weight gain, muscle aches, increasing blood glucose levels. I switched to Repatha, which is expensive but effective in reducing cholesterol. However I still have muscle aches and fatigue. My doctor also added niacin which was effective in decreasing high triglycerides and increased HDL. I’m still not convinced that lowering cholesterol alone is the answer to heart disease.

Given that several analyses indicate that using statins as primary prevention for cardiac disease may possibly add a matter of days to your life after several years use, it would seem obvious that prescribing them should be done with extreme caution. Debilitating muscular or neurological problems, diabetes, cognition problems, are all significant issues that seem a poor trade off for possibly a few more days of life let alone the life quality of those days. I am not saying NO ONE should take a statin, there is some evidence that in middle aged men with diagnosed heart disease or who’ve had a heart attack could benefit. I am saying not EVERYONE should take them.

My brother had been already diagnosed as diabetic and was taking metformin for several months before he was prescribed a statin for high cholesterol.

My question is this: Does taking a statin decrease the effectiveness of metformin and other diabetes meds?

There are several doctors curing type 2 diabetes using various fasting regimens, and people are able to get off of all or at least most drugs. Why does a person get diabetes? Why does a person need statins when cholesterol has been shown time and time again not to be the main cause of heart problems? It’s the same as having engine trouble in your car, and you just keep adding oil hoping to fix the root cause. The answer to these problems is to find out how to reverse them and thus eliminate the need for the drugs that do not fix them.

* Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^