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Eric T. Chaffin
Eric T. Chaffin
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Some Statins May Increase Risk of Type II Diabetes

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A recent study published in the British Medical Journal indicates that powerful statins like Zocor, Crestor, and Lipitor could increase risk of diabetes by 22 percent compared with weaker ones like Pravachol.

Other studies have hinted that statins may increase the risk of type II diabetes, but now it appears that we have new research that confirms the connection, which means that patients taking these drugs need to talk to their doctors to be sure they’re doing everything they can to protect their health. Doctors and patients may conclude that taking a lower dose, or taking a less powerful medication, for example, may be warranted depending on individual risk factors.

For the study, researchers from Canada researched data for nearly 500,000 Ontario residents over the age of 66, all of whom had no history of diabetes. They then followed them for over 14 years, and found that in comparison to Pravachol (pravastatin), those patients taking stronger statins were more at risk for type II diabetes. More specifically, those taking Lipitor had a 22 percent higher risk, those taking Crestor had an 18 percent increased risk, and those taking Zocor had a 10 percent increased risk.

Though the study authors stated the result does not mean patients should stop taking their medications, they did indicate that physicians should weigh the risks and benefits when prescribing them. Some flaws in the study included a lack of data on weight, ethnicity, and family history, all of which could also increase the risk of type II diabetes. Still, the study warrants concern.

"Our findings suggest that older patients treated with certain statins are at increased risk for incident diabetes," the authors wrote, "regardless of dose or whether treatment is used for primary or secondary prevention. The risks seems to be greatest with atorvastatin, rosuvastatin, and simvastatin….Clinicians should consider this risk when they are contemplating statin treatment for individual patients."

In February 2012, the FDA announced that it was requiring manufacturers of cholesterol statins like Lipitor, Crestor, and Zocor, to add warnings on their product labels that statins may slightly increase the risk of higher blood sugar levels and being diagnosed with type II diabetes.

An earlier study published in JAMA also indicated that intensive-dose statin therapy is associated with an increased risk of new-onset diabetes compared with moderate-dose statin therapy.

Likewise, a 2010 study published in the Lancet also found that statin therapy was associated with a slightly increased risk of developing diabetes.