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Taking statins linked to ‘higher diabetes risk than previously thought’

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Taking statins increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 46% in men, according to a Finish study.

The research, published in the journal Diabetologia, shows that use of statins is associated with a 46% increase in the risk of developing diabetes, even after adjustment for confounding factors.

Previous studies have suggested an increased risk – of varying levels – of developing diabetes associated with statin use, noted the authors of the new research from the University of Eastern Finland and Kuopio University Hospital.

“Statin therapy was associated with a 46% increased risk of type 2 diabetes after adjustment for confounding factors”

Markku Laakso

However, they claimed these earlier studies had limitations, which had led to the number of incident cases being underestimated.

In their study, the Finish authors investigated the effects of statin treatment on the risk of type 2 diabetes and deterioration of blood sugar control in 8,749 non-diabetic men.

The authors also investigated the mechanisms of statin-induced diabetes by evaluating changes in insulin resistance and insulin secretion.

The participants, aged 45-73, were followed up for nearly six years. Diabetes was diagnosed in 625 of the men during the period.

After the results were adjusted for age, body mass index, waist circumference, physical activity, smoking, alcohol intake, family history of diabetes, and beta-blocker and diuretic treatment, patients treated with statins were 46% more likely to develop diabetes than those not treated with statins.

The risk was dose-dependent for simvastatin and atorvastatin, said the researchers. Decreases in insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion were also dose-dependent for simvastatin and atorvastatin, they said.

High-dose simvastatin was associated with a 44% increased risk of developing diabetes, while for low-dose simvastatin the increased risk was 28%. For high-dose atorvastatin, the increased risk was 37%.

Overall, 29% of participants were taking simvastatin, while 53% were taking atorvastatin.

The authors said: “The association of statin use with increased risk of developing diabetes is most likely directly related to statins decreasing both insulin sensitivity and secretion.

“Statin therapy was associated with a 46% increased risk of type 2 diabetes after adjustment for confounding factors, suggesting a higher risk of diabetes in the general population than previously reported,” they added.

  • 4 Comments

Readers' comments (4)

  • What this study does not show, is how many of these men would have had a stroke or heart attack, if they had not taken the statin. I feel the development of diabetes is far preferable to dying. Maybe it does throw up the possibility of using lower doses, especially for Primary Prevention. More information please.

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  • Anonymous | 21-Apr-2015 6:15 pm

    'What this study does not show, is how many of these men would have had a stroke or heart attack, if they had not taken the statin.'

    Can you supply the evidence for this please?

    I have worked with stroke patients/survivors for 24 years, on a Stroke Unit, as a Stroke Lead Nurse, and latterly as a Senior Stroke Research Nurse. Although I advocate research, I still have an open mind, as much is driven by big pharma. Many patients admitted with stroke are on statins already, along with other drugs for hypertension, etc., a case of polypharmacy. I often wonder if these people are a stroke or heart attack waiting to happen. In which case, the medication has had little preventative effect, or if polypharmacy plays a part. Now retired, I am not in a position to research this myself. One of my greatest concerns is the fact that it is being suggested that statins should be given to younger healthy people. I truly believe, at this moment in time, the jury is still out on statins, but that is a personal opinion.

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  • bob cat

    I wonder how this clinical finding compares to pharmacological research evidence and the how that compares to unpublished research trial data?

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  • why is it so many patients claim they feel they are being forced onto this and other medications? comments on Telegraph websites on this frequently recurring subject of statins refers. I just wonder how true these complaints are or whether there are doctor-patient relationship problems where patients are afraid to question medical authority or feel threatened by it in some way. Many in the commentary are not afraid to speak out but maybe in a doctor's surgery it is a different matter which obviously needs to be addressed.

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