Taking statins in high doses can increase the risk of diabetes, research has found.
A study at the University of Glasgow looked at data from five clinical trials involving 32,700 patients and it concluded that intensive statin treatment leaves patients 12% more likely to develop Type-2 diabetes than those who were given moderate doses.
But researchers noted that patients in the high-dose group had a 16% reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes, and the British Heart Foundation urged patients with high cholesterol not to be put off taking statins despite the apparent link to diabetes.
The patients deemed to be in the high-risk group were taking 80 milligram statin pills, and those said to be taking moderate doses were on 20-40 milligrams.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that after a follow-up period of about five years, 8.4% of patients had developed diabetes and 20.4% had suffered a major cardiovascular event.
Among those in the high-dose group, an extra 149 cases of diabetes were reported.
The authors wrote: “Our findings suggest that clinicians should be vigilant for the development of diabetes in patients receiving intensive statin therapy.”
Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Statins play a vital role in protecting the hearts of many, many people and the benefits still far outweigh any risks associated with diabetes.
“The increased risk occurred predominantly in those taking a high dose of these drugs, whereas most people are on low or moderate doses.”
Diabetes UK clinical advisor Libby Dowling said: “This analysis of previous studies has found that high doses of statins increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, yet at the same time reduce the risk of heart disease.
”What we don’t know from this research is whether the people being prescribed the high-dose statins were overweight as having a large waist puts you at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes anyway.
“The benefits of statins for people at increased risk of heart disease outweigh the risk of developing type 2 diabetes so we would not recommend people stop taking them on the basis of this research.”
- Preiss D, et al. Risk of Incident Diabetes With Intensive-Dose Compared With Moderate-Dose Statin Therapy. JAMA 2011; Advance online publication