Statin drugs may increase diabetes risk

Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs do not reduce the risk of diabetes and might modestly elevate the chances of developing the condition, researchers found in a pooled analysis of trial data.

Cholesterol-lowering statin drugs do not reduce the risk of diabetes and might modestly elevate the chances of developing the condition, researchers found in a pooled analysis of trial data.

According to a Reuters Health report, the role of statins in lowering high cholesterol and protecting the heart is well established, but their relationship with diabetes is controversial, Swapnil Rajpathak, MD, DrPH, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, and colleagues note in the journal Diabetes Care. One Scottish trial reported a small protective effect of statins on diabetes.

To investigate further, researchers pooled data from this trial and five other randomized placebo-controlled trials of statins involving a total of more than 57,000 adults.

After an average follow-up of 3.9 years, 2,082 participants developed diabetes. When data from the Scottish trial were excluded, there appeared to be a small but significant 13% increased relative risk of diabetes developing in those who received statin therapy. When the Scottish trial was included in the analysis, the risk of diabetes with statin therapy was attenuated (6% increased risk).

However, the researchers emphasize that there were a number of possible factors that may have influenced the results.

In addition, Dr. Rajpathak stressed that the benefits of statins on heart disease, “by far outweigh any detrimental effects on…diabetes risk.”

In an accompanying editorial, Christie M. Ballantyne, MD, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, and colleagues agree, pointing out that if future studies confirm such a connection, “Because cardiovascular disease accounts for almost two-thirds of deaths in people with diabetes, the protective effect of statins on this major complication may suffice to support their use despite a potential risk of new-onset diabetes.”