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Statins may increase risk of type 2 diabetes

Patients susceptible to type 2 diabetes were at increased risk of developing the condition once they started using statins, a study has found.

Statin use was associated with a 36% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes in patients already at increased risk, even when the results were controlled for the clinical criteria for treatment with these drugs.

The study, conducted by researchers in the US and published in the BMJ, looked at just over 3,000 patients with elevated BMIs and blood glucose levels who were taking part in a wider study to look at the effect of different interventions on preventing type 2 diabetes.

The patients were randomised to receive an intensive lifestyle intervention, metformin or a placebo. Patients were followed up for an average of 10 years and researchers found that patients who had started taking statins during the follow up period had a 36% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with those who weren’t.

The risk of developing diabetes fell only slightly when the data were controlled for variables such as cholesterol levels and the use of antihypertensive medications that lead to the patient needing statin treatment in the first place, suggesting that these factors were not major contributors to diabetes risk.

The researchers found no link between the potency of the statin and the risk of diabetes.

The authors said in the paper: ‘For individual patients, a potential modest increase in diabetes risk clearly needs to be balanced against the consistent and highly significant reductions in myocardial infarction, stroke and cardiovascular death associated with statin treatment. Nonetheless, glucose status should be monitored and healthy lifestyle behaviours reinforced in high-risk patients who are prescribed statins for CVD prophylaxis.’

BMJ Open Diab Res Care 2017; available online 23rd October