ABC World News reported, “And we have a red flag to tell you about tonight about the most popular prescription drug in the world: statins.” Investigators “at Harvard Medical School” found that “people who take statins to reduce their cholesterol are at slightly higher risk of diabetes.” Sounds scary, right? Not to worry … it isn’t!
NBC Nightly News reported that according to the study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, “women who take Lipitor [atorvastatin] or other statin drugs for cholesterol have approaching a 50% greater chance of developing diabetes, according to this study,” a find that “affects potentially millions of Americans.”
Chief science correspondent Robert Bazell added, “The study out today from the governments Women’s Health Initiative, followed more than 150,000 women over 50 with and without heart disease for about ten years. They found those taking statin drugs had a 48% greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes.”
The Los Angeles Times explains, “The heightened risk for diabetes was most pronounced in statin-taking women of Asian origin or those with a body mass index, or BMI, in the healthy range.”
Despite these findings, the “study authors advise patients not to stop taking their medications without talking to a doctor, because statins’ proven power to prevent heart attacks and strokes outweighs any potential increase in type 2 diabetes risk,” USA Today states.
The AP quotes cardiologist Steven Nissen, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic, who said, “What I fear here is that people who need and will benefit from statins will be scared off of using the drugs because of reports like this.”
Dr. Nissen added, “We don’t want these drugs in the water supply, but we want the right people treated. When they are, this effect is not a significant limitation.”
According to HealthDay, “When contributing factors such as family history and excess weight were considered, the statin users were nearly 1.5 times more likely to develop diabetes than those not taking statins. The risk applied for all kinds of statin drugs.”
The study authors “can’t explain the link. ‘It’s still an area under scrutiny,’ said” Annie Culver, BPharm, “the study’s first author and a consulting pharmacist with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.”
Culver theorized, “Statins may affect the way the body manages insulin and glucose responses.”
“Culver added that the findings emphasize current guidelines that recommend lifestyle intervention as the primary means of treating high cholesterol,” MedPage Today explains.
Study author Yunsheng Ma, MD, PhD, of the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine, added, “Too many people are put on a statin who don’t have to be.”
Dr. Ma added, “Patients should go on a statin if they can’t control [their cholesterol] through dietary intervention, but once they’re on that statin they should still continue lifestyle intervention.”
What’s more, WebMD explains that the new “study is not the first to suggest that statins may raise the risk for diabetes.”
In fact, “an analysis of 13 studies, published in February of 2010, found that statin users had a 9% increased risk for diabetes. Another study, published last June, suggested a similar increase in risk among patients taking high doses of statins.”