The People's Perspective on Medicine

Do Statins Trigger Diabetes?

Statin-type drugs are becoming more and more controversial with time. When lovastatin (Mevacor) was first introduced in 1987, it lowered cholesterol like magic and was hailed as a breakthrough.
Since then, similar compounds have become best sellers, including atorvastatin (Lipitor), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor). Combined sales last year topped $10 billion.
For people who have heart disease, these drugs reduce the risk of dying from a heart attack. For otherwise healthy people, however, the benefits are much less clear. Two major analyses of many randomized clinical trials of statins found that these drugs don’t necessarily prolong the lives of healthy people who just have high cholesterol (Archives of Internal Medicine, June 28, 2010; Cochrane Reviews, Jan. 19, 2011).
After more than two decades on the market, there are more questions than ever about the safety of statins. We first started hearing about blood sugar problems in early 2003: “Recently, our physician prescribed Lipitor for my husband and myself. We both have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. We both take glyburide and my husband takes Avandia as well.
“Since we started on Lipitor, our blood sugar has been rising rapidly. My husband asked the doctor about changing to Tricor, but he was told it would not help him much and he should stay with Lipitor. It seems that Lipitor is affecting our blood sugar. Is this possible?”
We searched the official prescribing information and discovered that “hyperglycemia” (elevated blood sugar) was mentioned in a long list of possible adverse reactions. For the most part, though, this complication appears to have been overlooked.
People with diabetes are frequently prescribed a statin drug to reduce their risk of heart attacks or strokes. But a recent study found that high-dose statin therapy “was associated with an increased risk of new-onset diabetes compared with moderate-dose statin therapy” (Journal of the American Medical Association, June 22/29, 2011).
We have been hearing from some readers for years that they have more trouble controlling blood sugar levels when they take statins: “After a year and a half on simvastatin, tests were done to determine why I had neuropathy (nerve pain). One of the tests showed increased blood sugar and A1c. After I stopped simvastatin, the neuropathy disappeared and the blood sugar and A1c returned to normal limits.”
Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) is a marker of glucose control over time. It is disconcerting that some people seem susceptible to such difficulties even at moderate doses of statins.
The new research creates a quandary for physicians. A medication that is supposed to help prevent the cardiovascular consequences of diabetes may make it harder for some patients to keep their blood sugar under control.
People who would like to learn about other ways to lower their lipids and heart disease risks may be interested in our Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health.
Because it can take so long to discover some drug side effects, doctors need constant vigilance to make sure the cure does not create more complications than the disease.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I am wondering what natural supplements you are taking. Are you taking niacin?

RLB what are the herbal and natural supplements you take to control your cholesterol?

My numbers (7 yrs ago) were worse than yours. I took the usual Doc-regimen, and there was ‘some’ improvement, not a lot. In 2005, I had a small stroke (not fun). I started to get the message. I admitted to myself that my physio was out of control. Slowly at first, and then w/ gusto, I changed ALL my habits. That was 2006.
Today, I have lost 70lbs, and eat very little red meat, precious little dairy, etc. Being T2-diabetic, I also switched to STEVIA (fantastic stuff by the way), and got off aspartame. Today, I have no “insulin rebound”, or carb rebound, issues so my appetite is quiescent (unbelievable, for the likes of me). My cholesterol? LDL (“direct” measurement) = 61, HDL = 74, Trigs = 81, Total = 151, kinda snappy!
I have learned that that old maxim: “Eat to Live”, not “Live to Eat”, is really central. Yes, I occasionally have Chinese, I “occasionally this / that”. But the emphasis is on very, very occasional. You CAN LARGELY control your lipid profiles, and to the extent you need Rx-assistance, you will reduce/minimize the need for high-dose intervention, where trouble may be lurking.
I have to add that you will be simply amazed that, AFTER an admitted period of feeling somewhat denied, that you’ll be NO LONGER driven by your old habits/food-dependencies. I am no paragon of discipline. And I have trounced this godzilla. Think about EVERYTHING you eat…. count everything (fats, carbs, protein, minerals, fiber, using *google* to crank out any unknown figures). That is all your body “sees” when you eat anyway.
And supplements? ABSOLUTELY! Targeted, intelligent, well-researched. It can be done. Oh yeah, I lost the weight w/o a ton of exercise. No heroic stories about becoming an ultra-marathoner, etc. I have “MS”, and am not very mobile. My point? DIET! It is everything. (Fitness is key of course for overall health, but NOT essential to optimizing nutrition/ weight).

My young Dr. prescribed Lipitor for me a few years ago, reportedly due to high cholesterol numbers. I have no heart problems. Months later I began experiencing unusual right arm pain I’d never had before. My doctor dismissed my reports as a non-issue, saying the drug benefits outweighed the negatives. The more I read about the issues, the fact the pain continued convinced me to stop Lipitor — the pain stopped.
I consult with my Dr., keep him informed, including when I go against his advice and why. Then he prescribed Lovastatin. I had no pain, but reading continued information has convinced me to discontinue statins, especially now since I’ve been told D.M.II has become an issue — no family history, weight a minor issue, and diet has been healthy for years.
Please keep sharing the latest info on these statin issues, and matters associated with generic drugs. I’m very concerned about pharmaceutical companies motivations and marketing, FDA limitations and those individuals who seem to be reluctant to hold them accountable.

I have nothing good to say about statins. Lipitor was my first. I took it for years and noticed pains in situations in which I had never experienced pain. The first incident was when driving my then vehicle, an Odyssey. I had to allow my right arm to hang down between the two front seats and drive with only my left hand. My right arm was useless while I drove.
It got worse over time, to the point where I was not able to open a jar of spaghetti sauce without first prying under the cap with a butter knife followed by having my young children help me finish the task. During this time, I convinced a doctor to issue a request for blood work to test my creatine level. I had read Jane Brody, who was the medical writer for the New York Times, who did an article about the negative side of statins, particularly the pain.
If I had not persisted with my desire to be tested, I would today be crippled probably. I do not take Lipitor anymore, needless to say. For me, they are all the same — Zetia, Niaspan (not a statin), Crestor, even the natural red yeast rice. I will take the best of two evils. No statins. It’s a synthetic drug and what else will they say down the road about it? Oh by the way, I am a study subject for research about statins and its side effects.

Joe and Terry,
What do you know about the relationship between statins and rhabdomyolisis?
Amanda

5-7 is normal.
Any higher number shows your diabetes is not well controlled.

what alternate approach did you use to lower your numbers?
My doctor keeps telling me I am playing Russian roulette and should use statin’s to lower the numbers. I don’t smoke, I walk 4x a week 5 miles or more. Cholesterol is 282 HDL 50 LDL 204 BP is now under control with Atacand. CW

I am a male of typical Northeast US lineage. French, Irish, American Indian, and English.
I had always had moderately high cholesterol, 240 or so but have never had any problems except doctors who tried to get me to take statins or “your arteries will close up and you will have a heart attack”. After seeing my senior friends with statin induced muscle cramps and pains along with CHF, stents, and bypasses even though (or because) they were taking the statins, I did some research and embarked on a program to lower my cholesterol naturally.
Within six months my total cholesterol was 132, HDL 54 LDL 66. My doctor was amazed but seemed to feel that I was guilty some sort of of trickery. There are several natural supplements that lower cholesterol naturally without the nasty side effects associated with statins.
By the way, I am 82 years old and take NO prescription drugs. BP averages 110/75, total cholesterol in the 140-150 range, glucose normal, and no problem with circulation. I do take herbal and natural supplements but do considerable research regarding possible side effects or interactions.No one should be more concerned with their health than you are. It is worthwhile to take an interest regarding what you put into your body!.

I am a Caucasian, male 74 yrs. 8 yrs ago I was started on vytorin because a CT scan indicated arteries restricted. The vytorin did lower Cholesterol to 170 from 230, further CTscan showed no reduction in % opening in arteries. The gluclose was well below 100 and of no consequence. 4 years ago was switched to Lipitor 80mg, and annually have sonograms of carotid with a reduction in flow restriction each year (now 65% open). Gluclose levels have steadily increased to 125 – 180 during last 2 years.
After 2 years on 80 mg, was changed t0 40 mg. As of June 15 2011 I reduced to 20 mg Lipitor. Will stay at 20 to the end of 2011 and reevaluate. I have an aggressive primary young Dr. that I have to watch closely!
Thank you for your programs/books—–take care of each other.

What should your Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) reading be?
PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: HbA1c of 6% or below is considered normal.

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